Friday, March 11, 2005

City considers
undoing another
Harris-era change
to Punchbowl

The city transportation department is looking at reversing another Harris administration traffic plan and returning Punchbowl Street to a one-way street going makai between King and Beretania streets.

Last week, Mayor Mufi Hannemann canceled a $1.45 million plan to create mauka-bound lanes on Punchbowl between Ala Moana and King Street and ordered the contractor to remove planters and trees that had been planted as part of a beautification project.

Former Mayor Jeremy Harris created a single mauka-bound lane on Punchbowl between King and Beretania streets in 1998 as part of a four-phase, $3.5 million project to create better access to the freeway from Ala Moana.

Now that the city is not going forward with the rest of the project, transportation engineers are likely to recommend that the single mauka-bound lane between King and Beretania streets be returned to the makai direction, interim Transportation Services Director Ed Hirata said.


Punchbowl is mostly used as a feeder street from the freeway into downtown and Kakaako, Hirata said. Returning the additional lane would help morning commuters.

"With all that traffic coming off the freeway, you want to have as many lanes as possible to accommodate the traffic," he said.

The disadvantage of removing the mauka-bound lane is that traffic could back up on Alapai, South, King and Beretania streets in the afternoon rush hour because motorists who now make a left turn from King to Punchbowl would have to go around Honolulu Hale to get to the freeway.

In addition, Hirata said, the Transportation Services Department believes the crosswalk between Kawaiaha'o Church and Honolulu Hale on the Diamond Head side of the King and Punchbowl intersection should be eliminated.

Removing the crosswalk will allow motorists to make the left turn onto King from Punchbowl without having to wait for pedestrians to cross.

He said he will be meeting with the mayor "within a week or so" and will probably recommend the change.

Hirata said if the change is approved, he would consider returning parking spaces to the Diamond Head side of Punchbowl during off-peak hours.

The changes to Punchbowl are being considered as part of a comprehensive look at ways to improve traffic flow downtown, Hirata said. He said he will be meeting soon with state Transportation Director Rod Haraga to look at ways the city and state can cooperate and relieve traffic.

Any changes to Punchbowl or other streets would be presented to the various neighborhood boards, Hirata said.

Downtown Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Lynne Matusow said the board will want to review any plans to change Punchbowl. But she remembers the traffic problems before Punchbowl became a two-way street.

"It was a disaster," she said. "There's a lot of people who used to go around the whole block to get onto Punchbowl, and it just backed everything up something ferocious."

But Nuuanu/Punchbowl Neighborhood Board Chairman Joe Magaldi, a former city transportation director, said he thinks it might be a good idea to return Punchbowl to a one-way street.

Magaldi said it is safer for pedestrians and motorists to take away the one lane going in the opposite direction. "That makes a lot of sense to me," he said.

Magaldi was deputy director in the transportation department in 1998 when Punchbowl became a two-way street.

Hirata, who is serving as transportation services director until Hannemann can find a permanent replacement, served under former Mayor Frank Fasi as transportation director and managing director. He was also state transportation director under former Gov. John Waihee.

City & County of Honolulu

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