"Single worst traffic problem in Waikiki" addressed

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Driving through Waikiki can be beautiful at it's best – or a nightmare at it's worst.

"It's so bad, I don't know I hate it," said Taryn Nishimoto, who describes trying to make a right turn from Kalakaua Avenue onto Royal Hawaiian Avenue.

"Usually only one car can go, so I come down Lewers," explained Nishimoto, who often drops her Mom off for work at the Sheraton.

A 2012 Waikiki traffic study initiated by the Department of Transportation Services and the Waikiki Transportation Stakeholders Oversight Committee confirmed Nishimoto's frustrations.

"It's our single worse traffic problem in Waikiki," said Rick Egged, the Waikiki Improvement Association President.  "On weekends, cars will back up all the way to Ala Moana Boulevard trying to make right turns onto Royal Hawaiian or Lewers— as much as 45 minutes waiting to make this right turn.  This change should eliminate that wait."

Working during the overnight hours, crews re-striped and adjusted the signals at the Kalakaua and Royal Hawaiian intersection— turning it into a "Barnes Dance" or all pedestrian crosswalk.

"All traffic stops at one time and pedestrians can cross going mauka, makai, Ewa, Diamond Head, kitty corner – every which way," described Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

This isn't the only "Barnes Dance" intersection in Waikiki.  There's one at Seaside Avenue, which has been in place for the past 15 years, and another one is going in next week at Lewers Street.

"The good news is we're saving money doing this. It's only $6,000 worth – [compared to] $30,000 if we were to hire an outside person to do it," explained Mayor Caldwell.  "It's about saving money and it's about saving time— that's a good thing for our residents no matter where you live anytime you come into Waikiki."

Experts say the "Barnes Dance" concept improves traffic flow for both vehicles and pedestrians.

"When everybody's trying to cross everywhere -- rather than everybody having to go single file-- you just get to go where you're going," described Harmony Keane, who's visiting from Seattle.

Plus, it's also designed to keep walkers safe.

"Everybody's stopped -- there's no chance of somebody accidentally hitting you," said Keane.

Officials say it's all about making it easier to get around Wakiki, so residents and visitors alike can enjoy it.

"I think it's going to make coming to Waikiki a more pleasant experience—they don't have to sit and wait in traffic all of that time," said Egged.

"I think from the time you cross Ala Wai canal – it should be ten minutes to get here, and right now, it's 45 in the peak time.  So if you can alleviate it – even if you can get it down to half an hour – people are going to be happy," said Mayor Caldwell.

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