NANAKULI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Transportation expected slowdowns in the one eastbound lane of the Nanakuli contraflow when it debuted Wednesday to ease westbound traffic.
But Highways deputy Director Ed Sniffen said drivers deserve much of the blame for the gridlock eastbound drivers saw.
Why? They were making illegal left turns.
"What people were doing was taking those illegal lefts up Haleakala and Nanakuli affecting the westbound traffic definitely, but also putting people at risk, trying to jump across three lanes of a contraflow during that time frame," he said.
DOT workers monitoring the 1.5-mile contraflow counted 65 vehicles illegally turning left.
Sniffen said that backed up traffic behind them, as did a traffic jam created by cars trying to turn around in the Nanakuli beach park instead of using the designated U-turn.
"So you had people blocking the eastbound single lane to get into the park to come back out again," he said.
State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro was caught in the congestion. She said west Oahu drivers will adjust.
"If we kind of follow the rules of every other car, every other car gets to merge, and try not to stop, try to let traffic continuously flow," she said.
DOT had hoped for off-duty Honolulu police officers to help with traffic control but no officers signed up for special duty on the first day.
"The last thing that I want to do on my day off is a contraflow in Nanakuli that's a pilot. Right? So I get it," Siffen said. "I'm not going to force anybody to do anything. We're going to try to incentivize it more. We're talking to HPD on what we need to do to get people to sign up."
On Thursday, two officers were on site and the state doubled DOT personnel to discourage drivers from making those illegal lefts and U-turning at the beach park. Some motorists said the eastbound lane was moving a little faster. Others complained that it was still too slow.