By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
NORTH SHORE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) – After several delays and years of inaction the state has assembled an advisory group and will begin seeking solutions to persistent traffic jams on Kamehameha Highway at Laniakea on Oahu's North Shore.
The beach at Laniakea is a safe haven for green sea turtles. Hoards of people hoping to see the turtles park on the mauka (mountain) side of Kamehameha Highway and stop traffic as they cross to the makai (ocean) side of the road. That slows traffic, and so do people hitting the brakes to check out the surf. The result is a bumper to bumper backlog that is worse than ever.
"I've been here since the late 80's and I've never seen anything like this," said North Shore resident Bob Justice. "I'm afraid to even leave my house because it takes so long to get back home," Justice added.
State representative Gil Riviere has been pushing the state to address the problem since he was on the North Shore Neighborhood Board in 2005.
"Unfortunately the traffic is just getting worse and we're having a hard time getting the Department of Transportation moving on the project," Riviere told Hawaii News Now.
In 2007 the legislature appropriated $1.2 million to study solutions. But the money was to come from the state's general fund, and, according to the DOT spokesperson, then Governor Linda Lingle had a policy of not spending general fund money on highway projects. She believed money for highways should come from the State Highway Fund, so Lingle did not make the money available to the DOT and the funding lapsed.
In 2009 the DOT secured a new $1.7 million in hopes of finally addressing the problem at Laniakea. In May, 2010 the DOT held a meeting to solicit public input. A citizens' advisory committee was formed. It was to begin work in August, 2010, but not enough people volunteered to sit on the committee, so the project stalled and the DOT issued a call for more volunteers.
A sufficient number of volunteers representing a cross section of North Shore interests have now come forward. The advisory committee will finally meet for the first time on January 25, 2011 and consider options to the traffic woes at Laniakea.
"The traffic alternatives study will review possible realignments, bypasses, it'll review overpasses, underpasses, cross walks, traffic lights, one way in one way out and different beach park scenarios. So it will review all of the possibilities of making a long term solution," Riviere said.
DOT spokesperson Dan Meisenzahl said it is possible the state will come up with short term solutions to ease the traffic congestion, but it appears a long term solution is years away.