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Friday, January 28, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
People were stranded on a parked bus yesterday in Kapolei because
Farrington Highway was closed. This bus and others were diverted
to Kapolei Shopping Center to wait. Later, these people were taken
to a shelter set up at Makakilo Community Park.

Stuck motorists
wish for second way
to go home

But earlier plans for an
alternate Leeward route
have gone nowhere

Standoff over, roads open
Second route lacking
Kids, motorists stuck

By Helen Altonn
and Leila Fujimori


As motorists sat in their cars for hours and worried about getting home yesterday, they complained that a second route to Leeward Oahu is needed to prevent future traffic jams.

The state Department of Transportation is looking at transportation issues in that area, including a possible emergency access route, spokeswoman Marilyn Kali said today.

But there are no plans to proceed on an alternate highway because of the estimated $500 million cost and concerns about archaeological and possible burial sites in the area, she said.

That decision was discussed with the Waianae Neighborhood Board's transportation committee at a meeting Dec. 13 attended by the board, community members and legislators, Kali said.

The DOT gets only $30 million per year for highway construction for the entire state, she said.

"It would take 12 years of all our construction funds, not doing any other construction in the state, to afford the project," Kali said.

An alternate highway on the Waianae Coast also isn't part of the Oahu Regional Transportation Plan that lists projects up to the year 2020. It would have to be on that list to be eligible for federal funds, Kali said.

The Waianae Neighborhood Board is scheduled to take up the highway issue at a meeting Tuesday.


Evacuated citizens taken to shelters

The Oahu Civil Defense evacuated hundreds of Nanakuli residents
from their homes during the police stand-off, taking them to shelters
at Waianae District Park and Makakilo Community Park.

Neighborhood Board Chairman Cynthia Rezentes said the community has been divided over the need for an alternate road and the route.

She said she hopes state officials will be prodded into action "given this type of situation, as with the situation in Pearl City," referring to the 1998 hostage standoff that prevented Pacific Palisades residents from getting home.

Yesterday, it took Mike Duarte 90 minutes to get to the Waianae Coast via Kolekole Pass.

"When something happens (on Farrington Highway), it just locks down everything," Duarte said. "We really need a second road in and out."

But Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae-Maili-Makaha) said the issue of an alternate highway on the Waianae Coast is dead.

In 1997, the Legislature approved $1 million to study the possibility of a mauka highway in the area, she said.

She inquired about it after her election and said "the administration made it pretty clear it probably would not go far because cost estimates were about one-half billion dollars." Still, she said, the state and city continued to hold community hearings on the subject. "The issue has been kicked around on the coast a very long time."

It not only comes down to money but what kind of alternative route can be built if it doesn't go through a mountain range, she said. "You will always have a problem of a bottleneck at Kahe."

Hanabusa also noted that the community is split about the proposed highway. Residents have concerns about their lifestyle and the affect of another highway on businesses, she said.

But, "It's almost inexcusable what happens" during a standoff such as yesterday's, she said. "We're shut down there any time there is a major accident, especially one with a fatality, forget it."

Mamo Kahananui, a life-long Nanakuli resident, says yesterday's shutdown of the coast's traffic corridor is the worst she's ever seen.

By Dean Sensui, Star-Bulletin
An aerial view of Farrington Highway, looking toward Maili, at
about 4:30 p.m. yesterday shows traffic backed up behind the police
barricade. Waiting along the side of the road are buses that
were supposed to take schoolchildren home.

"If they can make the H-3 through mountains, why can't they do something here," she said. "People shouldn't be stuck in their cars like that."

A. A. Smyser, Star-Bulletin contributing editor, said yesterday's traffic jam fully vindicates a controversial call made during Hurricane Iwa in November 1982. That decision was not to try to evacuate residents from Leeward Oahu even though the hurricane's path put Leeward in much greater danger than the rest of Oahu. Its main punch was at Kauai.

The call was made by Malcolm Sussel, then the civil defense director for Honolulu. He refused to sound the sirens and order an evacuation, even though state Civil Defense recommended it. His reasoning was that auto accidents or falling trees or utility poles might block Farrington Highway and strand thousands of persons in their cars.

Instead, Leeward citizens, particularly those living near the beach, were asked to seek emergency shelter at inland public schools. In 1983, Smyser prepared a report on civil defense response for then-Gov. George Ariyoshi.

Kali said a $28 million project was planned to connect existing roads that parallel Farrington Highway to make a continuous parallel route. She said the city was going to implement that between 1995 and 2000, but the project hasn't moved.

"You only have one way in and one way out," said Waianae Neighborhood Board member Frank Slocum, recalling there was a fire about 20 years ago that "cut off the whole community."

Rezentes said opening Kolekole Pass allowed some people to go through, but "that's not always the case."

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