By Ramsay Wharton
Many North Shore drivers said they had a rough commute this morning but that it was better than yesterday, following Monday's closure of the Karsten Thot Bridge in Wahiawa for 6 weeks of reported emergency repairs.
By 4:30 a.m., it appeared that more North Shore drivers coming down Kamananui Drive had gotten an early start. Unless they go east to town from the Windward side, their only nearest route to town is now along Wilikina Drive, past the Army's busy Schofield Barracks. Hawaii Department of Transportation workers monitored the flow and coordinated with HPD officers to meet any needs possible to keep the traffic moving.
Then, just after 5 a.m., nearly 24 police officers started directing traffic at 9 key locations versus 11 at 7 locations yesterday. Officers decided to staff two additional locations after observing traffic hotspots during yesterday's chaotic commute, where delays up to 2 hours were reported, affecting a wide swath of residents including businesses, school children and their families. The new areas include assisting Whitmore Village drivers who are forced to drive north now snf merge into the town bound lineup on Kamananui Road from Kaukonahui Road. HPD officers also noted adding crews to help drivers move between Wheeler Air Base and Schofield Barracks.
New today, officers set up cones after observing clogged areas and illegal U-turns. They also set up two large HPD electronic signs warning north bound drivers along Wilikina Drive that no left turns can be made into or out of Schofield Barracks McNair Gate in order to lessen the single lane backlog that occurred yesterday. Police say Schofield officials also increased their gate personnel today to help ease traffic congestion and urged people to use Lyman Gate on Kunia Road for primary base access.
Another key change happened around 6:30 a.m., when a man from a City and County crew freed up the traffic signal at Wilikina Dr. and Kamananui Rd.. The flashing status gave officers more flexibility to direct traffic flows, instead of confusing drivers as they pushed them thru a solid red light.
Early drivers did report faster commute times. By 7 a.m. though, more drivers started heading "to" the North Shore as well, at one point backing up traffic on the H-2 North as far back as the Mililani Mauka exit.
HPD's eye in the sky started flying around 7 a.m. as well. The helicopter crew relayed traffic observations to officers on the ground to alleviate visible hotspots and backlogs.
Rebecca Taylor of Ewa Beach was disappointed she became delayed after accidentally bypassing her route North to Waialua. "20 minutes is not bad compared to some people," said Taylor.
By 8 a.m. some drivers were still running late, though.
Waialua resident, Jeff Stephani, got a surprise 30 minute delay to work this morning.
"It was my mistake. I really didn't know there was this traffic, but I would have taken the other road, I guess, it could have been faster.
One unidentified woman from Whitmore Village said it took her family only about 30 minutes in the 9 o'clock hour to travel to the main intersection, compared to two hours yesterday.
"Its a lot better," the woman said, "But, it depends on the time that we're leaving."
To help improve the commute, Honolulu police urge drivers to be even more focused during this altered commute and to drive with purpose. They say drivers need to "pick up the pace" and pay close attention to those in front of them trying not to allow major gaps between vehicles, so that more drivers can pass thru the intersections as possible to keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible.
Jim Richards of Velzyland missed yesterday's traffic nightmare, but admits, HPD keeping drivers moving, is a good thing.
"You get one person slowing down, it just slows down the whole thing," said Richards.
By 9:00 a.m. police reported normal North Shore traffic flows in the area and resumed normal McNair Gate traffic as well as resuming normal traffic signals operations to lights along Wilikina Drive. By 9:30 a.m. the majority of HPD officers had left the area.
HPD held another meeting with military and state officials this afternoon as they prepare to temporarily re-open a lane of the Karsten Thot Bridge ONLY during the TOWNBOUND MORNING commute hours of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. in order to alleviate the major traffic congestion in the area.