A task force created to come up with solutions for traffic at Laniakea Beach on Oahu's North Shore will be without a key member Wednesday as it decides whether to block the popular beach to cars.
Last week, former state Rep. Gil Riviere received a letter from state Transportation Director Glenn Okimoto notifying him he would no longer be allowed to serve on the Laniakea Task Force effective immediately.
"The letter indicated that I was selected because I was a government-elected official, and since I'm no longer a government-elected official, they had no choice but to remove me," explained Gil Riviere. "I don't believe that's quite right."
According to the task force charter, a member can be removed for failing to attend two consecutive meetings without prior notice, or by working contrary to the goals of the 19-member panel. Riviere says he attended both task force meetings in January and April, and considers himself one of the more knowledgeable members when it comes to traffic issues at Laniakea.
"I've arguably put in more time and energy than anybody, and people still come to me every day about ideas and solutions," said Riviere. "They ask, 'Are you the guy on the subject?'"
Rep. Richard Fale has agreed to fill Riviere's position on the task force, but even he remains at odds with the DOT about the sudden dismissal.
"I think it would have been good for the community to have him onboard," Fale told KITV4. "So, in the interests of the community, I think it was maybe not a good idea to drop Gil from the task force."
Riviere's removal comes as the task force prepares to vote Wednesday evening on a DOT proposal to erect concrete barricades at Laniakea to improve traffic. The barriers would bar cars from parking on the unpaved parking lot, which forces pedestrians eager to view sea turtles to cross busy Kamehameha Highway.
Riviere is not in support of the plan, while Fale sees it as the only viable short-term solution.
"It's no parking or nothing, and that's really, really unacceptable," said Riviere. "It's conceivable that tourists are going to move down the road and they're going to park in people's driveways. I think displacing the cars is not necessarily going to fix the traffic."
However, with the Sunset Beach Community Association and the North Shore Chamber of Commerce both voting in favor of a parking blockade at Laniakea, Fale supports the plan with strong reservations.
"We have to keep in mind that this is not the permanent solution that we're looking for," said Fale. "We're looking for the Department of Transportation to at least act on the issue, so that we can actually get some solution moving."
Antya Miller, a task force member and executive director of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, was hoping Riviere would remain on the task force, but supports the placement of concrete barriers at Laniakea as a temporary fix to the hellacious traffic.
"It's either that or no short-term relief for the next five to seven years, however long it takes us," she said.
In 2009, state lawmakers appropriated $1.7 million to study traffic alternatives at Laniakea after $1.2 million in funding two years earlier was allowed to lapse. Riviere has been a vocal critic of the DOT for the painstakingly slow process.
"The money that has been set aside for the study would compare different alternatives, whether we widen this road, put three lanes, (or) wiggle the road," said Riviere. "All those alternatives are supposed to be part of the study, and that unfortunately hasn't begun yet."
According to an email received Monday from DOT spokesman Derek Inoshita, an analysis of traffic alternatives for Laniakea is now in a "preliminary phase." Inoshita said the agency hopes the Laniakea Task Force will reach a consensus on a single long-term traffic solution during its meeting Wednesday, which would then be fully analyzed.
"The Task Force's recommendation is integral to community consensus," wrote Inoshita. "When an option is agreed upon, DOT will then begin work on a full analysis of the single selection, rather than work on assessments of multiple plans, many of which will not be selected."
The Laniakea Task Force is scheduled to meet at 6:30 Wednesday evening at the Haleiwa Elementary School cafeteria. The meeting is open to the public, and Riviere has been invited to attend.
"I'm very sincere about working through this to its conclusion, and I very much would like to remain on the task force," said Riviere.