Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Pedestrian and construction workers mixed along Kuhio Avenue last week in an area with no sidewalk while construction for an improvement project continued in Waikiki. For more on that area, see story below.

Weekend jam
looms for Waikiki

Kamehameha Day coincides
with the Pan-Pacific Festival
as construction narrows streets

and Friday's a holiday

Here is a list of some events of the 25th annual Pan-Pacific Festival, to be held on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki from Friday to Sunday:

Friday: Pan-Pacific Hoolaulea from Lewers Street to Kaiulani Avenue, from 6:10 to 10 p.m.

Saturday: Kamehameha Day Parade from Iolani Palace to Kapiolani Park, starting at 9:30 a.m.

Sunday: Pan-Pacific Parade from Saratoga Road to Kapiolani Park, starting at 5 p.m.

Traffic hell is coming to Waikiki this weekend.

Three major events in the 25th annual Pan-Pacific Festival will draw visitors and tie up thoroughfares in Waikiki, already clogged with traffic trying to get around road construction.

"The traffic is going to be horrendous," said Kwei Hui, owner of Seaside Bar & Grill at 2256 Kuhio Ave. "It's already bad right now."

Tracy Miller, manager of Chili's in Waikiki, plans to tell employees to give themselves extra time to get to work. "It's going to be hell," said Miller.

Some merchants are worried about the festival on Kalakaua Avenue Friday to Sunday. Events include the Pan-Pacific Hoolaulea on Friday, King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade on Saturday and the Pan-Pacific Parade on Sunday.

During festivities and parades, traffic will be diverted from Kalakaua Avenue to Kuhio Avenue, which already has some areas where traffic is slowed because of construction. Parts of the mauka side of Kuhio are coned off to allow pedestrians to walk on the street while contractors widen the sidewalks.

Work also includes landscaping medians and installing street lights similar to those on Kalakaua Avenue.

City Managing Director Ben Lee said officials will ask contractors to hire off-duty police officers to facilitate traffic during construction when festivities are held.

Miller noted that traffic and the construction might lead people to avoid Waikiki altogether. "It will make people angry," she said. "It's a hassle."

Rick Egged, president of the Waikiki Improvement Association, urged those who plan to attend the event to enter Waikiki through Kapahulu Avenue. "I think that would be the least congested," he said.

A store manager at Photo 1 Hour on Kuhio Avenue said he is worried about pedestrians who were unaware of where to walk as contractors laid stone tile in front of his store last week.

Some pedestrians attempted to walk through the construction site until contractors told them that they needed to walk around it.

"It's an accident waiting to happen," said the store manager, who would not give his name. "It's pretty dangerous."

Lee said the city plans to add temporary signs in some areas to facilitate pedestrian traffic.

Lee said the city has encouraged parade and festival coordinators to schedule events in Waikiki on Sundays or in the downtown area until the $19 million project is completed in December. Delivery truck and tour bus drivers were also advised to use side streets such as Lewers Street and Seaside Avenue to help alleviate traffic.

Lee noted that work on parts of the mauka side of Kuhio Avenue is almost finished. Shower trees were also placed on the medial strip from Kealohilani Street to Kapahulu Avenue.

"It's going to look great when it's done," he said. "It's going to be good for business. We have been asking people to be patient during construction."

Lee said contractors are working 10-hour days four days of the week and an average eight-hour day on Fridays. Some contractors have recently started working on parts of Kuhio Avenue on Saturdays because they are a month behind.

Egged said he hopes future events in Waikiki will be better spaced out instead of being held consecutively.

"But sometimes it's not possible," he said. "You can't change Kamehameha Day."

Jimmy Dao of Pho Old Saigon surveys the area outside his Kuhio Avenue restaurant where construction was being done on Wednesday. Access to the eatery was limited due to the work.

Merchants report
losing customers

Some Waikiki business owners say they have suffered from construction on Kuhio Avenue that started three months ago.

"It really bums out my business," said Kwei Hui, owner of Seaside Bar & Grill at 2256 Kuhio Ave. "We're suffering."

Hui said business dropped 50 percent when construction first started in front of his restaurant in March. Patrons were unsure of how to enter the restaurant or whether it was still open because of the construction.

"My customers couldn't get in my restaurant," said Hui.

Construction supervisors would direct patrons to the back door to enter the restaurant.

A waiter was laid off because of the slow business, and a large yellow sign was posted on his window informing patrons that they were still open.

Hui said business has since steadily increased by 25 percent after contractors made a temporary walkway toward the front door of the restaurant.

"It's getting a little better," he said. Hui added that he hopes business will improve during the Pan-Pacific Festival this weekend.

"I think business will probably pick up," he said, anticipating the thousands of people expected to attend the festival.

Tracy Miller, manager of Chili's at 2350 Kuhio Ave., said she also had hung a bright yellow banner on the window in March to inform patrons they were still open.

"No one thought we were in there. ... They couldn't see a way to us," said Miller. During that time, business dropped 20 percent. But Miller said she removed the banner a few days ago after business showed signs of improvement when contractors finished trenching the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.

Waikiki businesses can contact a hot line to help make construction more convenient for patrons, said city Managing Director Ben Lee.

"We have a construction manager to respond to make adjustments in any way they can if they can't get in," he added.

Merchants can contact construction manager Chris Garrett at the Kuhio Avenue hot line at 864-1914.


E-mail to City Desk


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