Thursday, November 18, 2004

Cars were backed up along Beretania Street near Punchbowl Street yesterday at 4:30 p.m.

Experts gather to discuss Honolulu's traffic gridlock

Can we dissolve traffic gridlock on Oahu? Maybe, maybe not. But people can sure talk a lot about it.

Fixing the problem

Proposed short-term traffic solutions

» Add a lane to the Kalihi Street "choker" in both directions on H-1
» Add a lane between the Liliha Street onramp and Pali Highway offramp on H-1
» Ramp metering
» Contraflow along Dillingham Boulevard
» Improve traffic-signal timing and coordination
» Shift start time for some large schools such as Roosevelt High School, Punahou School and the University of Hawaii at Manoa
» Clear and manage accident scenes more efficiently

Long-term solutions

» Two reversible lanes on the Nimitz viaduct
» Afternoon zipper lane on the H-1 freeway
» Peak period contraflow on Pali Highway
» Ramp metering on the H-1 freeway
» Improve the capacity of Castle Junction
» Grade separation at intersections of Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue and Vineyard Boulevard and Punchbowl Street

Source: Panos Prevedouros, associate professor of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Hawaii-Manoa

That's exactly what happened yesterday when a panel of experts gathered at the University of Hawaii-Manoa to discuss Oahu's unnerving traffic problem and what can be done to reduce roadway congestion.

There was no consensus on solutions, but plenty of opinions -- many of them related to light rail.

The public forum -- aptly titled "Can We Dissolve Traffic Gridlock?" -- seemed to generate more questions. Among them:

» Karl Kim, professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning: "Many rail transit systems are being built or planned in places like Albuquerque, Austin, Birmingham, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Columbus, Spokane and Washington, D.C. If Denver, Dallas, Phoenix and Houston can all build a light rail system, why can't Honolulu get its act together?"

» Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kahala-Palolo): "Is it time for us to have our family budgets reduced a bit in order to contribute a small amount to fund a light rail transit system?"

» Rep. Galen Fox (R, Waikiki-Ala Moana): "Traffic is absolutely a major problem on the island of Oahu and is imminently linked with our housing problem. Honolulu is one of the most perfect cities in the United States for a rail transit system."

The event was sponsored by the University of Hawaii's Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Social Sciences Public Policy Center and the Legislators in Residence Program.

Some attendees discovered that Honolulu's traffic problems are far from unique.

Honolulu's traffic problem reflects a nationwide one, said Peter Flachsbart, associate professor of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Cheaper cars, population growth and lack of proper land-use planning contribute to traffic, he said.

Developers who want to minimize costs build the least amount of roads to service their projects, he said. "That means a lot of traffic clogging up arterials," Flachsbart added.

Panos Prevedouros, associate professor of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, offered several short- and long-term solutions to mitigate traffic flow on Oahu's roadways.

His ideas include implementing contraflow lanes along Dillingham Boulevard and improving traffic signal timing and coordination. He also proposed double-decks to increase highway capacity and a bus-guideway system as long-term solutions.

The ongoing Waimalu widening project that will extend a portion of the H-1 freeway to six from five lanes is expected to reduce traffic by 30 percent, he said.



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