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Thursday, October 7, 1999



art

This is not a drill

Drivers and Waikiki residents
grit their teeth as the American Dental
Association descends on the
Hawai'i Convention Center

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

SOME anticipate it could be a major traffic headache -- or, as some might call it in this case -- a traffic toothache.

About 35,000 members of the American Dental Association and their families will start descending this weekend on Waikiki and the Hawaii Convention Center.

Convention planners, who have put out advisories warning of potential traffic tie-ups in the Ala Moana-Kapiolani area, say the situation will be heavy but manageable.

But the Ala Moana Residents Association thinks drivers will be gritting their teeth and is predicting serious traffic problems during the dental convention, which runs from Saturday through Tuesday.

Richard Port, board president for the nearby Ala Wai Yacht Harbor Towers, has one piece of advice for Oahu residents:

"My feeling is, anybody in Honolulu who doesn't have to be here this weekend should go travel to the neighbor islands."

A large concern among area residents is the plan to shut off a lane of traffic on Atkinson Drive from Kapiolani Boulevard to the ILWU meeting hall to accommodate between 50 and 75 buses that will shuttle conventioneers to and from the center.

Potential problems are exacerbated by the need to close the porte-cochere, or drive-through entrance, to the center. Convention planners say the number of attendees will make it impossible for registration to take place just within the lobby, requiring people to "spill out" onto the porte-cochere.

Port foresees major traffic difficulties, particularly for residents and businesses along Atkinson trying to get in and out of their driveways as buses back up. Some 1,000 people in 456 units live in his complex alone.

He believes buses may even resort to dropping and getting passengers from a second lane on Atkinson.

Convention Center officials and ADA convention planners say as much as possible is being done to mitigate the situation.

Dick Walsh, general manager of the facility, said the shuttle buses will stop and unload at eight points: three on Atkinson near the ILWU hall, three on Atkinson near the porte-cochere and two along the turnout lane on Kalakaua Avenue.

Taxi drivers also are being advised to drop off passengers inside the convention center site by entering through the freight entrance on Kalakaua and leaving via Kahakai Street. A pickup area will be set up in the parking garage for the taxis.

"We wanted to minimize that activity on the street for obvious reasons," said Phillip Rowell, the dental convention's traffic engineering consultant.

And while Port predicts a good number of generally well-to-do dentists will catch taxis to the center, Walsh doubts it.

"I think there'll be a lot of taxis, but I would say a majority of the people will be riding the shuttle bus," he said.

Grant Kimura, director of airport and transportation services for convention planner MC&A Inc., said he doesn't think the situation is "going to be that bad."

"We planned it out as best as we could considering the amount of space we had to work with," he said.

More than 25 off-duty police officers have been hired, and among their duties will be assisting residents at driveways and intersections all along Atkinson, he said.

"We've tried our best to be real sensitive to the needs of the communities," Kimura said.

Ideally, the porte-cochere would be open for vehicular traffic, but the size of the convention and configuration of the meeting space did not allow it, he said.

"Every square inch is taken with exhibits, counters and booths," Kimura said. "Outside the door, it's only about a 6-foot curb, and to have 15,000 people on that curb, there's nowhere to go.

"If we opened it up to traffic, we would have tons of people crossing with buses and traffic and the chance of someone getting hurt."

Alan Hayashi, executive director for the Convention Center Authority, acknowledged that the porte-cochere was not intended to be closed to vehicular traffic.

"We didn't anticipate this event would require this kind of configuration for the building," Hayashi said. "If we were using the porte-cochere, we would have no problem at all. But this is a big group that's using the entire building, and (the size and configuration) won't allow it."

Hayashi asked for the community's forbearance but said he thinks traffic flow will be OK, adding that changes will be made to traffic patterns if necessary.

Said Rowell, "I don't think it's going to be as bad as we're telling people," noting that the ADA even switched its schedule to avoid peak traffic hours.

"Personally, I thought it would be very irresponsible to say everything was going to be OK and then have something go wrong," he said. "If we erred, we wanted to err on the safe side."



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