City considers possible takeover of Leahi Avenue as school gridlock ensues

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Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 9:42 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 13, 2021 at 4:26 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The return of students to classes at Waikiki Elementary School has put a spotlight on what residents say are safety issues on Leahi Avneue, and they want the city to take it over.

The roadway was privately owned for years, but last year, a frustrated resident took it over and made changes that were aimed at making it safer.

“The safety issues are worse than ever,” said Leahi Avenue resident Dana Bergeman. “I appreciate what Safe Leahi intended to d, but it’s completely backfired.

Safe Leahi LLC was formed by neighbor Mary Jones, who turned Leahi Avenue into a one-lane road to deter speeding.

But the return of more than 500 students has resulted in gridlock, especially during pickups and drop-offs.

“I’ve been out there in the mornings, and I’ve seen the exasperated looks on the faces of the drivers who are trying to navigate that bottleneck,” said Waikiki School Principal Ryan Kusuda.

Kusuda said he has asked Jones to remove parking stalls near the school’s entrance to alleviate the traffic, but she said no.

Some said the parked vehicles -- including some food trucks -- have created a dangerous situation.

“People are now actually speeding up to get around the parked vehicles,” said Bergeman.

“The implementation of those bump-up parking on the makai side of Leahi Avenue has, in my opinion, created unsafe conditions that puts both vehicles and pedestrians at, really, unneeded risk,” said Kusuda.

At an online meeting of the Diamond Head Neighborhood Board Thursday night, the city’s managing director defended Jones, but said the city is looking at taking over the roadway. City Council Chair Tommy Waters has introduced a resolution that would achieve that.

“From the get-go, the city has said that it’s not our road,” he said. “So one of the things I advocated for was for the city to take over the road. To me it just makes sense.”

However, that process could still take a while. Meantime, some residents want the city to restore the two-lane roadway immediately.

“Until this gets sorted out, the city should issue some sort of cease and desist (order), and restore some sanity to this street before some school kid gets hit,” said Bergeman.

Calls to Jones were not returned. She did not attend the neighborhood board meeting.

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