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Monday, September 11, 2000

Officials drop the
ball on stadium
traffic woes

Attempts will be made to
resolve parking problems
before the next home game

You make the call
Warriors humbled

By Treena Shapiro

After another traffic calamity Saturday at the University of Hawaii football game, The Stadium Authority said it will meet today with the police department to try to resolve parking problems before the next home game Sept. 30.

Fans suffered gridlock for hours Saturday despite preparation by the Stadium Authority, Honolulu Police Department and state Department of Transportation.

By the end of last season, traffic to Aloha Stadium was under control through alternative parking lots, shuttle and express bus service, and increased numbers of police on game nights.

But what worked last season didn't work Saturday, and while Warrior fans say the traffic for last year's game against the University of Southern California was worse, this year wasn't much better, even for those who weren't going to the game.

"The traffic was really bad," said Eve Higashi, who works in customer service at the Aiea Shopping Center Times Super Market. "We had some employees that were late for work."

Because of proximity to the stadium, the shopping center is attractive to people who want to park, Higashi said. "There's a security guard that notifies them to move their car, or if they leave it here, you have it towed away."

Nevertheless, Higashi assumes that people did sneak their cars into the lot anyway. "There must have been a few that parked there because when we closed there were cars. Usually this lot is empty."

The problem, said Les Keiter, special assistant to the Stadium Authority, is that everyone remembered the USC traffic jam and tried to get there earlier. "All the people trying to get to the stadium early, all at the same time. That's why gridlock occurred.

"We did everything we could. So did the Police Department. There's no way to control what time people leave their home," he said. "And people who are not football fans, who are not coming to the stadium, are caught up in the traffic jam, too."

Mayor Jeremy Harris said the city would be willing to help the state work on the problem and suggested as one alternative double-decking the lower Halawa lot to add more parking. The mayor also said that he'd be willing to speak with the Navy about opening Ford Island for parking and shuttle bus service to the stadium.

Mayoral candidate Mufi Hannemann, also chairman of the Pro Bowl Host Committee, said using Ford Island for parking helped parking during last season's Pro Bowl, but stressed that the Pro Bowl is once a year and Ford Island may not be available for the whole UH season.

Hannemann, who lives close enough to the stadium to walk to the games, said he heard several complaints about traffic at Saturday's game. "It's a chronic problem and one I believe requires the intervention of the mayor," he said. "It's tremendous stress and chaos every time you have a sellout game."

But state Transportation Department spokeswoman Marilyn Kali said there may be no solution.

The real problem is that there's 8,000 parking spaces for 50,000 seats. "When you have a sellout crowd at the stadium and you have a limited amount of parking spaces, there's just going to be a problem," she said. "It's just one of those things that's a capacity issue for a particular event and there's really not much we can do about it."

Kali suggests that people just leave their cars at home and catch the CityExpress! bus instead.

Or as many found on Saturday, just arriving early and tailgating until the game starts works just as well. The lower Halawa gate lot opens at 1 p.m. to cars with four or more people.

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You make the call

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