Sunday, September 28, 2003

Nimitz Highway set for
test run of contraflow

A four-month project
will measure the effect
on commute times

Town-bound commuters will get the green light tomorrow to travel the Nimitz Highway contraflow lane as part of a four-month test project.

Left-turn restrictions

During contraflow hours from 4:30 to 8:45 a.m., the following restrictions apply:

For Ewa-bound traffic (in addition to already restricted Puuhale and Mokauea streets), no left turns at:

>> Kalihi Street
>> Waiakamilo Road

For townbound traffic, mauka turns will be permitted from regular left-turn lanes, requiring the contraflow lanes to stop at new traffic lights at:

>> Kalihi Street
>> Waiakamilo Road
>> Puuhale Road

The lane will be open from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. for vehicles with two or more occupants.

The contraflow lane runs from the Keehi interchange off the airport viaduct to Pier 32, near Hilo Hattie at Pacific Street. Motorists must be in the HOV lane coming off the H-1 airport viaduct to enter the lane.

With the end of the bus strike, hours for the HOV lane will be from 5:30 until 8:30 a.m. and cars must have two or more occupants to use the HOV and contra-flow lanes.

The Zipper Lane on the H-1 Freeway will be open during the same hours for vehicles with at least two occupants.

There are some features of the contraflow lane the department cautions may confuse or challenge drivers.

No mauka-bound left turns will be permitted from the contraflow lane, but will be permitted from regular left-turn lanes. That will require contraflow lane drivers to stop at newly installed traffic lights at Kalihi Street, and Waiakamilo and Puuhale roads.

Sand Island Access Road will continue to have two left-turn lanes for Ewa-bound traffic.

That means contraflow traffic must cross back to regular lanes just before Sand Island Access Road, then cross back after Sand Island.

Special-duty police officers will be posted near Puuhale Elementary School, at the school's request, to ensure the safety of schoolchildren. Officers will also be posted at Kalihi Street and Waiakamilo Road to discourage drivers from making illegal left turns.

Business owners on the makai side of Nimitz have been concerned the contraflow project will slow business because of restrictions on Ewa-bound drivers turning left onto Kalihi Street and Waiakamilo Road.

Department of Transportation Director Rod Haraga, though, predicts increased business for the area.

Since the highway's traffic signals have been reset, "more cars will be going through," he said.

The state estimates the cost at about $1 million for improvements to Nimitz Highway to allow for the contraflow and for operation and evaluation of the project. Continuing the contraflow lane is expected to cost about $30,000 a month.

If the contraflow project is successful in reducing commute times, the department will request funding for another eight months. The state will also look at extending the Zipper Lane to the contraflow lane.



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