Just after 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Honolulu police opened up town bound traffic over Wahiawa's Karsten Thot Bridge. Hawaii News Now was the first to tell you about the state's decision yesterday to re-open the bridge this morning to Honolulu commuters to help prevent continued gridlock and hours of delays due to its initial closure for repairs that occurred at midnight on Sunday, September 16.
Police said they observed most Whitmore Village drivers came over the bridge -- no longer having to head North, just to go South, jamming up traffic as they tried to get into the south bound traffic flow from Kaukonahua Road to Kamanamui Road.
Reduced speed signs were posted to move cars slowly over the 80-year-old structure to keep no more than 5 vehicles crossing at a time for safety.
Police believe reducing the Whitmore Village traffic played a large role in minimizing the number of backlogs previously seen along Kamananui Road and Wilikina Drive as commuters head for the H-2 freeway to get to town.
Add to the bridge opening, a continuation of yesterday's increased HPD and Schofield Barracks manpower and lane adjustments and problem areas were more easily resolved today, according to officers monitoring traffic.
As the morning continued, police said they did have to address some traffic issues around Wheeler Air Base, but officers said overall, it was nothing like the past two days. And for those crossing the bridge, the opening of it turned their frustration into gratitude. Some thru shaka and expressed cheers of joy to be able to use the bridge which state officials said yesterday will cost an estimated $4.5 million to fix.
"Very, very, very good! Much better," said Flash Jaime, who lives in Whitmore Village. "I work in Mililani. Yesterday it took me an hour and 45 minutes to work."
Another driver heading to town said he experienced no problems at all.
But the current bridge plans could change if the State officials determine a complete replacement of the bridge is a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars than making repairs now. Governor Neil Abercrrombie raised the issue yesterday and a cost analysis will have to be run to decide if re-construction is a better long range plan albeit it could cost anywhere from $10 million to $20 million.
Cars kept coming over the bridge, but there was never a huge volume of vehicles. In fact, it was pretty light, suggesting some drivers may not have known they could use the bridge from 5:00 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Drivers came over the bridge in waves as traffic in the affected area thinned out and by the 7 o'clock hour, Wahiawa police determined it was time to remove officers from traffic duty and reset traffic signals to normal operations. Left lane closures into Schofield were also lifted.
The decision came two hours earlier than yesterday's normalizing of traffic.
Honolulu police expect the state's morning bridge commute option to last thru the expected 6 weeks of bridge repairs. In the meantime, HPD, military and transportation officials are working to reduce the evening commute hassles.
The state is expected to hire several HPD special duty officers to work this Friday thru Sunday to handle traffic related issues during the Karsten Thot Bridge repairs.