Motorcade, car fire blamed for Saturday night gridlock on H-1 - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Motorcade, car fire blamed for Saturday night gridlock on H-1

Panos Prevedouros Panos Prevedouros
PEARL CITY, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Motorists spent up to two hours sitting on the H-1 Freeway Saturday night due to what's being called a "perfect storm" of events.

Traffic was at a complete standstill in the westbound lanes from Aiea to Pearl City for several hours. One reason: officials had shut down the freeway for the motorcade bringing President Obama to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for his flight back to Washington, D.C.

While most people are aware of the occasional traffic from the annual presidential holiday visit, this caught many by surprise.

"I usually take the Waimalu cutoff, but I thought I'd try the Aiea cutoff, and I was completely unaware that the presidential traffic jam was happening and I drove right into it," said Mililani resident Esme Infante, who was stuck for 90 minutes.

During the standstill, a car caught fire, which didn't help matters.

"I stepped out to look and indeed there was a ten foot high fire in the middle of the freeway. A small car had caught fire," said University of Hawaii engineering professor Panos Prevedouros. He and his family were on their way home from Mililani.

"The accident, plus the motorcade closure, and then eventually the congestion propagated," he said. "Apparently that car overheated and caught on fire, so it was a trifecta of events."

Despite the very long delay, many motorists tried to make the best of it. Several shut off their car engines and got out of their vehicles to swap stories with other drivers.

"It was interesting to see aloha alive and well, even in this sort of not ideal situation," said Infante.

But Prevedouros noted that the gridlock delayed at least one ambulance from getting to the scene. He believes there should be more planning and preparation to prevent this kind of gridlock.

"We let things happen and we wait it out," he said. "We could be doing better."

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