The state Department of Transportation has revised posted speed limits for the Lahaina bypass, allowing motorists to legally drive faster on the new roadway.
When the newest phase of the bypass mauka of Lahaina town opened in mid-December, its posted speed limits were 25 to 30 mph.
"This didn't pass the 'common sense' test," said Lahaina resident Bob Pure, former president of Lahaina Bypass Now, a group formed to advocate for completion of the long-awaited roadway. "Our main stop-and-go highway was 45 miles per hour, and the new . . . 'bypass' was set at 30 miles per hour."
State transportation officials in Honolulu were told that a 30-mph speed limit "made no sense and defeated the very idea and purpose of a 'bypass,' and it would discourage people from ever using the road," Pure said.
State officials agreed and changed the speed limit to 45 mph on the section of the bypass between Lahainaluna Road and Hokiokio Place, he said. Speed limits for the rest of the bypass were posted at 30 and 35 mph, except at entry and exit sections, which remain at 20 and 25 mph.
DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter confirmed the new speed limits.
West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey said that he also advocated for transportation officials to change the bypass speed limits, and he was pleased it has happened.
"The better signage should alleviate some of the traffic issues on the Lahaina bypass so that fellow Mauians can enjoy more of their time outside of traffic and with their friends and ohana," he said.
New speed limit signs have been installed.
Pure said that the Transportation Department also has agreed to lengthen the left-turn access lane onto Keawe Street to allow more cars to stack up in that lane. Now, the lane only holds six vehicles waiting to turn left, he said.
Sluyter said that the storage and deceleration lane for Keawe Street is 180 feet long, but another 240 feet will be added for a total length of 420 feet.
"When completed, at least 20 cars could stack up during peak hours," she said.
The speed limit changes and the longer left-turn access lane "should make the bypass faster and easier to use," Pure said.
The highway, decades in the making, opened its first phase from Keawe Street to Lahainaluna Road about a year ago and included the award-winning Kahoma Stream Bridge. The second phase that connects at Lahainaluna Road and continues to Hokiokio Place, which ties into Honoapiilani Highway at Puamana, opened in December. The entire roadway is about 2.5 miles with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and Lahaina below.