Sleepy Waimanalo grapples with growth — and traffic

Sleepy Waimanalo grapples with growth — and traffic

On weekends, it's normal to see a long line of cars backing up on Kalanianaole Highway as they head into Waimanalo from Kailua.

But now, the gridlock is happening during the week, too.

WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One major cause? A road improvement that's not expected to wrap up until fall 2016.

But once the work is finished up, traffic through Waimanalo should flow more smoothly.

And that's good news for the community, which is attracting more businesses — and customers.

The state project, for the area between Olamana Golf Club and Poalima Street, includes lane closures and contraflow from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday.

As part of the improvements, crews will add three dedicated left turn lanes, concrete sidewalks on the mauka side of the road, and paved shoulders.

The infrastructure improvements are needed.

Once a sleepy outpost on the windward side, Waimanalo is becoming more crowded — and the traffic is exhibit A.

"The traffic has been quite horrendous, particularly on holidays and the weekends," said Malia Smith, owner of the restaurant Ai Love Nalo.

"I live here, I live in this community and yes, on the weekend the cars are stacked up out there," said Linda Awana, assistant manager for the Waimanalo Market Co-op next door.

Both businesses are success stories, and examples of how Waimanalo is fundamentally changing.

"There's a trend towards healthier living. There's a trend towards sort of a village mentality," said Awana.

Less than three years ago, the co-op had no electricity, and ice coolers on the floor were the only means of refrigeration. Now it carries everything from fresh produce to boutique jewelry.

Ai Love Nalo opened only 11 months ago. Already, the parking lot is routinely packed — like the roads.

"We are kind of a victim of circumstance, everyone wants to be here," Smith said.

Residents have said some back-ups through the community last over an hour. It's a tough balance for those who live and work in Waimanalo, but one they'll take — even on a holiday weekend.

"It’s going to be awesome, there's going to be a ton of people here so bring a little bit of patience, but bring your aloha spirit, too," said Awana.

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