- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Maui airport is getting upgrades that officials hope will boost tourism as the economy-driving sugar industry phases out of production.

Workers are spending the coming months finishing a cellphone lot and breaking ground on a $350 million rental car facility, among other Kahului Airport improvements, the Maui News reported (https://bit.ly/1LktMus).

“After sugar … we only have tourism,” Marvin Moniz, Maui Airports district manager, said.

Hawaii’s last sugar plantation, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., will close by 2017.

Officials hope upgrading the state’s second-busiest airport will boost the travel industry and accommodate more tourists.

Four paved lanes will replace the airport entrance by the summer in a two-phase project costing a total of about $73.7 million.

“It helps with the increased traffic we’ve had coming into the airport,” Moniz said. “It takes some heavy traffic off Dairy Road and makes traffic from Kihei and Lahaina flow smoothly.”

Moniz says the number of travelers passing through the airport has grown from 2.6 million in 2011, to about 2.9 million in 2014.

Last year, there were about 3.1 million travelers who passed through Kahului Airport

The addition will make traveling easier, Craig Okita, a project manager at Hawaiian Dredging, said.

“It’s good for the economy. It gets guys off the labor benches,” Okita said. “Overall it helps a lot of different people.”

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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