HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State transportation crews have opened a new extra lane on a congested stretch of the H1 Freeway.
The new lane in the westbound direction starts at the Lunalilo Street off ramp. It used to be an "exit only" off ramp, but now motorists can continue on in the new fourth lane.
"It's a project that we hope can get done quickly to help alleviate the traffic before all the kids go back to school," said state transportation department spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter. "We don't think we're going to make it before the (Department of Education) deadline, but hopefully before U.H. and all the other schools go back later in August."
The extra lane was created by making the lanes narrower. They were 12 feet wide, with four-foot wide shoulders on either side. Now, the lanes are ten feet wide, with two- to three-foot shoulders.
A typical tour bus takes up nearly all of that width. Because of the tight fit for larger vehicles, the speed limit in the area has been reduced to 45 miles per hour.
The Department of Transportation has added lanes to the freeway before. In 2006, it added a lane between the Liliha Street on ramp and the Pali Highway off ramp in the eastbound direction, also by narrowing the lanes. And the freeway already has ten-foot wide lanes beneath the Middle Street overpass.
Companies like Roberts Hawaii are adjusting. In a statement, Jennifer Hill. the safety officer for the tour bus operator, said, "Roberts Hawaii is studying the striping plan to ensure their drivers can continue to drive professionally and safely."
There's a good chance that the additional, narrower lanes, could be extended further. "It is a demonstration project, so it's something we'll take a look at for about a year or so. And if it works out, there's a second phase that we're looking at that would stretch from Pali Highway to Middle Street," said Sluyter.
Work continues to re-stripe the freeway in the eastbound direction to add an extra lane from the Ward Avenue overpass to the Punahou Street exit. Sluyter said the DOT hopes to complete the work, weather permitting, by the first week of August.