State: Closing busy on-ramp could alleviate eastbound 'choke point'

Published: Apr. 13, 2017 at 7:46 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 17, 2017 at 5:01 PM HST
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MAKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The stretch between the Piikoi Avenue on-ramp and the Punahou Street off-ramp is one of the most congested sections of the H-1 freeway eastbound.

To ease that congestion, the state is looking at getting rid of the Piikoi on-ramp altogether.

Starting Monday, Piikoi's eastbound entrance will be closed for a two-week traffic survey.

The state will study whether doing away with the on-ramp speeds up traffic and improves safety.

"People using the Piikoi on-ramp are weaving in through the traffic," state Highways deputy Director Ed Sniffen said.

State transportation planners want to minimize the criss-cross that happens on the freeway between Piikoi and Punahou as cars merge left and right.

The state's banking on drivers liking that that idea.

"We're hoping that we'll get more efficiencies and we'll see the volumes increase and the number of vehicles that we can get through the area increase as well," Sniffen said.

He said the merging zone slows freeway traffic in the far right lane to 30 mph.

Sniffen calls it a "choke point."

"If we eliminate a portion we believe it would take away some of that friction so we get a better free flow," he said.

During the study, traffic volumes will be measured at 16 points along the freeway and on surface streets near Piikoi.

The study will give state and city transportation experts an idea of what to do if the on-ramp is closed permanently.

"It may mean widening a street. It may mean just timing the signals a little differently," Sniffen said. "We're not sure what the mitigation will be. We're being open to everything right now."

While the Piikoi entrance is closed, crews will do some maintenance work on the on-ramp.

Drivers are urged to access the freeway on the Ward Avenue and University Avenue on-ramps.

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