Already hit by rail, Waipahu businesses are dreading another city project

Some small businesses in Waipahu, who have already been hit hard by years of rail...
Some small businesses in Waipahu, who have already been hit hard by years of rail construction, say an upcoming city project will devastate them.
Updated: Feb. 27, 2019 at 6:47 PM HST
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WAIPAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In order to prepare Waipahu for rail, the city has several construction projects planned to revitalize the old plantation town.

But some small businesses in the area, who have already been hit hard by the rail construction, say one of the upcoming projects will devastate them.

“The community now knows that Waipahu is a nightmare to get into, so they’re not coming,” said Koti Ramirez, owner of Wat Get Kitchen. “So as we see the progress for the future, the present for us is looking pretty bleak.”

Ramirez's pasteles shop is located on Hikimoe Street, along with 17 other businesses.

"It's been very slow," said Jeanne Yi of Song's Korean BBQ. "Our sales have gone done more than half because nobody wants to come through this (construction area)."

On Monday, Yi and Ramirez say the city handed out notices alerting them that crews will begin work to widen the makai sidewalk on Hikimoe and the roadway will be closed completely for six months.

Maps handed out to business owners show traffic will be detoured up Mokuola Street and down Kahuailani Street.

But city officials say local traffic will still be let through.

"All residences and businesses along Hikimoe Street, local traffic is still allowed," said Jon Nouchi, deputy director of the city's Department of Transportation Services. "We're not closing the street off to anyone who needs to reach a destination on Hikimoe."

But Yi is worried the sight of construction will still keep customers away.

"They said there's only going to be one entrance and one exit, but most people don't know that because (Kahuailani Street) is a back road," Yi said.

Nouchi says the project is part of a plan to upgrade the busy Waipahu Transit Center nearby, which sees as many as 7,000 bus riders every day.

"This roadway reconstruction, widening of the sidewalks and landscaping is really just to kind of punctuate the effect that we're trying to make a better environment, not only for bus riders, but for everyone in the Waipahu town center," Nouchi said.

Businesses hope the city will consider doing construction in the evening or just closing off the street in sections.

“As we develop great things, we are damaging a lot of families and businesses that really can’t afford to have two or three months of lighter traffic,” Ramirez said.

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