As gridlock worsens, East Honolulu searches for solutions

As gridlock worsens, East Honolulu searches for solutions
Updated: Nov. 2, 2016 at 4:46 PM HST
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HAWAII KAI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - During the morning rush hour, the five-mile drive from Mike Garnett's garage in Hawaii Kai to the H-1 Freeway is more stop than go.

"On a good day it's a half hour to get to H-1," he said. In regular traffic, it's a 10-minute drive.

Kalanianaole Highway traffic town-bound in the morning is slow, even with a contraflow lane. And it's getting worse.

Gridlock along the corridor is prompting calls to improve traffic light synchronization on the highway and brainstorm other efforts to accommodate more cars, especially given talk of potential new developments popping up in east Honolulu.

Some blame at least some of the congestion on timing of traffic lights through Niu Valley.

"it makes absolutely no sense why all three aren't red, all three aren't green. It snarls traffic," Garnett said.

The state has studied ways to speed things up.

"If we shut down some of the accesses onto Kalanianaole Highway it might help, but then again it may have negative impacts," said Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation Highways Division. "So we've got to look at all the options."

Kalanianaole HIghway was widened in the 1990s. There's no room for a shoulder lane on Kalanianaole Highway, but there is a possibility the contraflow could start farther east.

Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Natalie Iwasa said the city has talked about new stop light software. "And that would take a look at the actual traffic levels, and then they would be able to change the signals as needed according to the traffic," she said.

State Rep. Gene Ward, who represents east Honolulu, said the traffic woes could be compounded if new developments come to fruition.

"There are some Kamehameha Schools leases that are going to expire which are large tracts so there's a bit of anxiety if they went into subdivision that would be a problem," Ward said.

Kamehameha Schools said it has no plans to do that.

But even small-scale construction, like the new apartment complex on Hawaii Kai Drive, has an impact.

"You figure 150 to 200 cars added to the road," Garnett said. "This year is the worst traffic I've seen in East Oahu and I have lived here for 10 years."

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