HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A major change is coming to a busy road near Ala Moana Center. Crews will start converting the one-way stretch of Waimanu Street between Piikoi and Pensacola Streets to a two-way road starting on September 2. The project is tied to the mall's Ewa Wing expansion. A traffic study found that the change will help with congestion, according to city officials.
"When people have wanted to access Queen Street going Ewa, they've had to go around the block and make some sort of circulation pattern. This allows one lane which becomes two lanes to go through to Queen Street, which really connects the mall, the transit stations that are coming," explained Mike Formby, director of the city's Department of Transportation Services. "We're not reducing any lane lanes headed eastward. We're just adding a lane headed Ewa."
Five parking stalls on the makai side of Waimanu will be removed to make room for the new Ewa-bound lane. Traffic signals will be adjusted and the city hopes to fix a trouble spot at the intersection of Waimanu and Piikoi.
"At one part of the signal phasing, they actually have opposing traffic trying to come together, and if you watch you'll see that people always cross over the solid lines," said Formby. "Well, this is going to separate the timing of those turning phases."
General Growth Properties, which owns Ala Moana, sent a letter to neighbors about the project, but the chair of the Ala Moana Neighborhood Board said members just found out about the work last Tuesday.
"I wonder why such short notice? I think it affects many, many people," said Larry Hurst.
The board didn't have time to take a position, but Hurst worries that altering the traffic signals will cause cars to back up on Pensacola Street.
"I don't think this is a good idea at all," said Hurst. "It's only going to benefit the people that live on the south side of Waimanu because they're going to be allowed to turn into their buildings."
"The traffic study didn't show that it would be worse. So if it does get worse we'll monitor it, and if we have to tweak the design or make changes we will," said Formby.
General Growth is paying for the project. The work will be done from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The construction will include the installation and replacement of electrical conduits, traffic signals, and light poles, as well as pavement cutting and re-striping. Crews should be finished before Christmas.