A contingent of Hawai‘i officials from every county, along with other county officials from the Mainland participated in the Pacific Northwest Peer-Exchange Tour in Oregon and Washington State last month. Their main mission was to learn how to utilize modern transportation tools to meet land use needs.
Kaua‘i was represented by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., County Engineer Larry Dill and Planning Director Michael Dahilig. Bev Brody, executive director for Get Fit Kaua‘i, also went on the tour, according to county officials.
“The whole tour took place outdoors, so we were able to experience what it’s like to walk, ride a bike, use transit or ride a car in the different built environments, which ranged from simple to complex,” said Carvalho, adding that on the last day of the tour, the group went on a two-hour bike ride around Portland, Ore.
The participants saw firsthand how the key elements of Complete Streets can be applied, and gained an understanding of how to create streets and buildings that fully support an existing population resulting in a vibrant business economy.
In addition, the participants had the opportunity to network with their peers and discuss the challenges of implementing change.
Two cities, Seattle and Portland, were featured in the tour, along with smaller communities in Washington State, including University Place, Bainbridge and High Point.
“Of course, not everything we saw would be appropriate for Kaua‘i, but we can take some of the ideas and implement them here,” Carvalho said. “Essentially, what we are striving for is to optimize our built environment to help people live healthier and happier lives.”
Carvalho pointed out that the Hawai‘i State Legislature enacted a Complete Streets law in 2009, requiring the counties to adopt a Complete Streets policy that seeks to provide safe passage on public roadways for all users including bicyclists, transit riders, motorists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
Led by Brody and other community leaders, Kaua‘i County was the first in the state to adopt a Complete Streets policy, and in 2013 went on to pass a Complete Streets bill.
“We’re starting to implement Complete Streets elements with the Hardy Street improvement project, and I think it’s encouraging people to walk more often, enjoy the outdoors and make healthier choices,” Carvalho said. “Soon we’ll be able to build upon the foundation laid there with the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant projects.”
Also last month, Carvalho was notified the Kaua‘i County was among 39 applicants that were successful in their bid for grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The U.S. DOT received 627 applications from all 50 states and several U.S. territories including tribal governments.
The award granted to the county was $13.8 million dollars for the Līhu‘e Town Core Mobility and Revitalization Project.