As rail construction moves east, customers return to Waipahu

As rail construction moves east, customers return to Waipahu
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

WAIPAHU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Business owners in Waipahu are breathing a sigh of relief as rail construction moves east to Pearl City.

"In the past two months, we went back to normal," said Sam Abdeljawad, owner of Professional Auto Stereo. "Business is doing fantastic and we're happy to see the construction done."

Abdeljawad says his business of 15 years was on the verge of bankruptcy when rail construction started in Waipahu last year, spurring intermittend lane closures and blocking drivers from making left turns into businesses.

"Good friends of mine would call for a sound system and they'd say, 'even if our lives depend on it, we're not coming to Waipahu,'" Abdeljawad said.

Even the very popular Tanioka's Seafoods and Catering took a costly hit.

"When they first started, you didn't know what you're driving into," said Tanioka's General Manager Justin Tanioka. "Every day a different turn or a different lane was closed. It was hard even for our employees to get to work."

On Saturday, rail officials tried doing their part to help the businesses.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation's "Shop, Dine & Shuttle" program teamed up with Waipahu Community Association to offer free trolley rides around the community to help promote Waipahu businesses.

"It's a great day to really bring people together, support businesses that have been impacted and continue to support the community at large," said Henry Aquino, executive director of Waipahu Community Association.

Alika Watson was among those who jumped on the HART trolley.

"We pretty much ride through Waipahu trying to get through the traffic and that's all you really think about nowadays," she said. "But it was cool. We got to sit down, relax and listen to great history."

Meanwhile, Waipahu merchants say they're hopeful that the bounceback will stick.

"We're hoping to see better business in the future soon," Tanioka said.

While construction in the area has mostly wrapped up, HART did say there will be intermittent lane closures as crews continue restoration work along Farrington Highway in Waipahu.

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