Helemano students caught in afternoon gridlock

Helemano students caught in afternoon gridlock

Of all the schools experiencing traffic headaches because of the closure of the Karsten Hot Bridge, Helemano Elementary may be hit the hardest.

On Thursday, two school busses of Helemano students left the campus at 2:15 p.m. and got caught in gridlock on Whitmore Avenue.

"It took close to three hours for the students to get home to Helemano Military Reservation," school principal Kenneth Muh said.

Maile Christian wasn't taking chances. On Friday she picked up her kids an hour before school ended.

"It took thirty minutes the other day to get home from picking them up from school," she said.

The trip normally takes five minutes.

It's been slow going for Helemano students and staff since the bridge closed for repairs on Monday. Many commuters want the bridge opened to afternoon traffic like it is during the morning rush. The state said that would be impractical

"It's not just the four hours that we shut it down. It's takes time for them get their gear out of there, shut everything down, clean it up. And the same thing when they open it back up. So the four hours really stretches out to about six hours that we're losing for work time," State Department of Transportation spokesperson Caroline Sluyter said.

She said the project would take longer to complete and cost taxpayers more than the $.4.5 million estimated for the job.

Helemano students are caught in the middle.  Mayco and Marisol Batres son, Devean, is one of them.

"We have to pick him up on time. We have to put up with it," Mayco Batres said.

"Some parents have opted to pick up their students a little earlier. We're not surprised. We do want to keep the focus on student achievement, but we also understand that getting students picked up on time is also very important," Muh said.

The DOT is trying to synchronize traffic signals. And starting Monday, police will be out at 1:30 in the afternoon to move traffic through intersections.

We'll see if it gets Helemano students home quicker than the crawl they've been caught in.

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