The Laniakea Beach roadside barriers may be down, but the no-parking signs are already up.
State Department of Transportation crews spent Monday morning removing concrete barriers along a near 1,000-foot stretch at Laniakea Beach, which had blocked dozens of cars from parking there, about a year and a half after having installed them.
As promised, they replaced the physical barriers with no parking signs, and in a release Monday DOT officials said that any drivers who park there at any time risk being cited or towed. Visitors are also prohibited from jaywalking across Kamehameha Highway.
The move by DOT aims to comply with Circuit Court Judge Gary Chang’s order earlier this summer that the barriers had to come down, after Chang said they were “obliterating” beach access. However, lawyers the barrier opponents who brought the suit say that the new no-parking signs violate “the spirit, if not the letter” of Chang’s injunction and that the DOT could be in contempt of the court’s order.
In their statement Monday, DOT officials said they had tried to reach a deal with the city, which owns the parking area, through which most of the barriers would stay up while allowing cars to orderly enter and exit that zone. However, DOT said it wasn’t given enough time to study the feasibility of that plan or make the necessary improvements to ensure it was safe and to protect the state from potential liability issues.
In a separate statement Monday, state Sen. Gil Riviere (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua ) called on DOT to finally finish its environmental assessment for realigning the highway at Laniakea — an effort that first got funding back in 2007.
Riviere called the focus on the barriers a “distraction from realizing a long-range solution” to the traffic and safety problems there. “Now, more than ever, DOT needs to assure the public that it is serious,” Riviere stated.
DOT said it’s working on that study, and that the eventual solution could cost between $20 million and $45 million. It would also take about five years after the environmental studies are done to actually finish the realignment project, as long as the funding’s there, a DOT release stated.
Also on Monday, a group of about 10 North Shore community members reportedly gathered at the work scene with signs to demonstrate, pleading with state officials to provide a better long-term solution to the parking and safety woes at Laniakea that often tie up traffic for miles along the North Shore.
About half of the demonstrators supported the barriers and half opposed them, but all agreed that they needed a better solution, according to North Shore activist Blake McElheny.