New sidewalks near the intersection of Rice Street and Hardy Street, and at the entrance to Wilcox Elementary School. Photo via the County of Kaua’i.
County leaders in Kaua’i, HI are working to revitalize the Līhu’e Town Core as a vibrant, walkable heart of the island, with Rice Street as its main street. In 2008, the county crafted its Holo Holo 2020 plan to guide that work, and in 2014 they asked Smart Growth America to inform that work with a parking audit workshop. What has Kaua’i been up to in the time since?
Over the last year, Kaua’i has gotten started on its revitalization work with Complete Streets improvements to Hardy Street. New sidewalks, turn lanes, bike lanes, on-street parking, and street plantings will eventually run the entire length of Hardy Street, which is parallel to Rice and curves around to intersect with it in the heart of Līhuʻe’s town core.
“When I was a kid, I grew up walking to the town center,” said Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr., who was raised in Kaua’i. “Our vision is to transform our community into a walkable and bikable community. The progress we’ve already made helps people see it and experience it. Now it’s time for more action.”
Kaua’i is officially the first Hawaiian county to implement Complete Streets, and the improvements along Hardy Street are only the beginning. New bus facilities and a new transit hub in Līhu’e are also in progress. And the county plans to consolidate downtown parking around the civic center downtown, a move informed in part by Smart Growth America’s workshop.
“Parking counts that took place during the parking audit shifted people’s thinking about basing thoughts on data rather than on perception,” says Lee Steinmetz, the County of Kaua’i’s Multimodel Transportation Planner. “The default solution people go to is, ‘We need more parking,’ but we also need to ask, ‘Can we reduce demand [for parking]?’ Smart Growth America’s leadership for the parking audit helped expand our thoughts on what’s possible.”
All of this momentum helped win Kaua’i a huge boost this week. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Kaua’i a $13 million TIGER grant that will enable the community to fully reconfigure Rice Street and expand transit service, among other things. Rice Street will undergo a road diet, allowing residents to walk safely where business owners will benefit from window-shopping. In typical Hawaiian fashion, Mayor Carvalho is quick to credit Kauai’s community of leaders for their progress thus far.
“It’s about the right people, with the right soul, the right spirit, with the right passion,” says Carvalho. “It’s all levels working together, and it’s about those people knowing that it takes dedication.”
Learn more about the ongoing success in Kaua’i at Holo holo 2020, and see progress reports from the Kaua’i project on our earlier post about the workshop. Smart Growth America’s free annual technical assistance program, made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place.