Nimitz Highway tree planting could finish early

Dan Meisenzahl
Dan Meisenzahl

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The work is a tall order, plant giant palm trees on a narrow median on Nimitz highway. We watched as a work crew sank a 35-foot-tall Fiji palm into a hole three and a-half feet deep.

The state transportation department is working a seven-day-a-week schedule to finish the work before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit comes to town.

"The job itself is about 70 to 75 percent complete. We've got about 105 trees in. We've got 60 more to go," DOT spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said.

The drop dead is November 6. Meisenzahl's confident it will be completed earlier than that.

After the trees go in, grass goes over the dirt. It's soaked with water three times a day to make sure it takes root.

"When you drove down this corridor before, it could have been 'anywhere USA,'" Meisenzahl said. "Now it says 'Hawaii' because of the palms and the grass."

The work has slowed already stop and go traffic on Nimitz. We thought for sure we would hear complaints -- but no.

"I like the trees. The traffic is the same as always," one driver said.

"We've probably gotten more feedback saying, 'Hey, this is great!' than 'The traffic's terrible right now,'" Meisenzahl said.

We asked businesses along the industrial stretch what they think.

"Getting rid of all the shrubs. That's probably the best thing the state has ever done," said Chris Cariaga of Car Audio Specialist.

Meisenzahl said the project was in the state's pipeline for years, but it took APEC to get it off the drawing board.

"And I would say thank God for APEC, because this is something that we wanted to do for a long time," he said.

The state's spending $1.3 million for the mile-and-a-half long makeover. Overtime costs could take it higher.

So what's the return on investment?

"Long after APEC is gone, these trees will be there to increase the quality of life of the people that live in Kalihi, and the people that have to travel on that road every day," said Bob Loy of The Outdoor Circle.

The new look Nimitz has taken root.

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