Breaking the gridlock
A draft plan sets out suggestions to stem problems from the constantly rising number of Oahu cars and residents
EVEN IF OAHU spends billions to widen freeways and expand mass-transit ridership over the next 24 years, rush-hour traffic will still be worse in 2030 than it is today, according to a new draft transportation plan, which forecasts the number of people in cars will increase 30 percent over the next two decades.
But if nothing is done, the plan says, the future is even more bleak: Two-thirds of the island's residents would spend at least 80 minutes in morning traffic, rush-hour traffic jams would stretch from Waianae to east Honolulu, and the total daily "delay time" for all drivers because of congestion would jump by more than 87.2 percent, from 34,000 to 265,000 hours.
HOW TO COMMENT
Comments on the draft Oahu Regional Transportation Plan 2030 can be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to 707 Richards St., Suite 200; Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
A copy of the plan is available on the Oahu Metropolitan Organization's Web site at www.oahumpo.org. Downloadable comment sheets are also available on the site.
The deadline for comments is March 15.
If the plan's 65 suggested projects -- totaling $13.5 billion -- come to fruition, the delay would be about 44,000 hours daily.
"We need to do something," said City Councilman Todd Apo, who helped draft the plan. "We either need to do something or have zero growth."
The Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, whose board is made up of City Council members, state representatives and transportation experts, unveiled the 2030 plan this week. Citizens can comment on it until March 15.
The plan is required under law if any federal funds are to be solicited for a transportation project on Oahu, though planners admit some of the projects will likely fall by the wayside. Once approved, the plan will replace one written in 2000.
Critics say the plan puts too much emphasis on highways and not enough on other modes of transportation.
Others say it ignores smaller levels of growth in east Honolulu, Windward Oahu and the North Shore, concentrating instead on Central and Leeward Oahu.
Thirteen of the plan's 16 "congestion relief" projects for 2006 to 2015 are centered between Pearl City and Waianae and include widening the H-1 freeway, Farrington Highway and Kamehameha Highway along with improving traffic flow on the roadways, with new merge lanes and exits.
The plan's authors say the disparity in where projects are situated is based on forecasted growth patterns: More than 80 percent of Oahu's expected growth by 2030 -- including an estimated 240,000 new residents and 130,000 new jobs -- is expected to take place in Honolulu and Ewa.
Central Oahu is expected to see a 28 percent increase in population.
But Gil Riviere, chairman of the North Shore Neighborhood Board's transportation committee, said planners ignored the millions of tourists who drive from Kahaluu to Haleiwa annually on Kamehameha Highway.
"The North Shore is the No. 1 destination for tourists, next to Waikiki. That wasn't taken into consideration," Riviere said. "The rapid expansion of tourists to the North Shore may not have been anticipated adequately in the 2030 plan."
The plan calls for $115.9 million to be spent on safety improvements -- but no extra traffic lanes -- along Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore.
Riviere's board has suggested the state spend more money to realign Kamehameha Highway to move it back from the ocean's edge in places and potentially add lanes.
DEAN UCHIDA, director of the Land Use Research Foundation, which is connected to the Leeward Oahu Transportation Management Association, said the plan is "pretty comprehensive."
"It's the right steps," said David Lemon, chairman of the Pearl City Neighborhood Board's traffic and transportation committee. "I'm more concerned that they actually implement the plans."
Uchida also said the plan is relatively economical because it works to improve the capacity of existing roadways, rather than pushing for the construction of new ones.
In addition to new HOV lanes and widening projects, for example, the plan says $150 million should be spent to improve "transportation demand management," which would include starting an emergency ride home program, a car-sharing project and a carpool-matching Web site.
The plan also includes $2.7 billion for mass-transit projects, including $2.5 billion for a fixed-rail system between Kapolei and Manoa.
About $151 million would go to expanding the city bus service and $23.2 million would be for an intra-island ferry between Ocean Pointe Marina in Ewa and Honolulu Harbor. Also, $101.6 million would go to a bike plan.
But several of the more than 60 people who attended a public hearing on the plan Wednesday told officials that they were underfunding alternative transportation projects.
According to the plan, about 9 percent of commuters will use mass transit in 2030 if the projects are implemented, up from about 5 percent in 2005. Projected daily transit ridership on an expanded bus line and a fixed-rail system is expected to increase by about 144,000 by 2030, to 367,000 people.
Meanwhile, about 10.1 percent are expected to bike or walk to work or school, down from 11 percent this year.
Therese Argoud, a proponent of "walkable communities," said planners should concentrate on sidewalks as much as they do on freeways, especially with increasing concerns about global warming and ozone depletion.
"They should really be looking at how can we improve the quality of life," she said after Wednesday's meeting. "There really has never been ample thought or planning to accommodate pedestrians."
The transportation plan is the result of about two years of discussion and research. Gordon Lum, the planning organization's executive director, said the 65 projects were pared down from more than 400 ideas solicited through an islandwide telephone survey.
About 21 percent of funding for the work is likely to come from the federal government. The city is expected to contribute $6.2 billion and the state's share will be about $2.7 billion.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Gridlock such as this morning rush hour in Aiea last week takes up about 34,000 driver hours each day, a report says.
DRAFT OAHU REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION PLAN 2030
Here's a list of some of the proposed projects listed in the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization's draft transportation plan for the next 25 years. All the projects in the plan come to $13.5 billion.
» Plan, design and construct fixed rail transit system between Kapolei and downtown Honolulu.
Estimated cost: $2.6 billion
» Widen the H-1 freeway by one lane in the eastbound direction between Middle Street and Vineyard Boulevard and between the Waiawa Interchange and the Halawa Interchange.
Estimated cost: $276.1 million
» Develop an island-wide transportation management program, which would include free, on-line car-pool matching, an "emergency ride home" program and marketing for alternative transportation.
Estimated cost (through 2030): $150 million
» Expand the city bus service.
Estimated cost (through 2030): $151.2 million
» Construct safety improvement along Kamehameha Highway, from Haleiwa to Kahaluu, turn lanes, guard rails, signage and crosswalks.
Estimated cost: $115.9 million
» Implement first-phase of the state's "Bike Plan Hawaii."
Estimated cost (through 2030): $101.6 million
» Widen Kamehameha Highway by one lane between Lanikuhana Avenue and Ka Uka Boulevard.
Estimated cost: $78.9 million
» Widen the H-1 freeway by one lane in the westbound direction between the Pearl City Viaduct and the Paiwa Interchange.
Estimated cost: $24.7 million
» Start ferry between the Ocean Pointe Marina in Ewa to the Honolulu Harbor.
Estimated cost: $23.2 million
» Construct an afternoon-peak zipper lane on the H-1 freeway westbound from the Keehi Interchange to the Kunia Interchange.
Estimated cost: $19.9 million
» Construct a two-lane elevated, reversible HOV "fly-over" above Nimitz Highway, from the Keehi Interchange to Pacific Street.
Estimated cost: $250 million
» Widen Moanalua Freeway by one lane in each direction.
Estimated cost: $150 million
» Widen Kunia Road by one lane in each direction.
Estimated cost: $110.3 million
» Extend Hanua Street from Makakole Street to Farrington Highway, providing a four-lane roadway to Kalaeloa Harbor.
Estimated cost: $61.1 million
» Construct two new lanes, one in each direction, on the H-1 freeway median for HOVuse between the Waiawa Interchange and Makakilo.
Estimated cost: $52.5 million
» Widen Kamehameha Highway by one lane in each direction from Kahuhipa Street to the Pali Highway.
Estimated cost: $49.4 million
» Widen Farrington Highway to four lanes between Fort Barrette Road to west of Fort Weaver Road.
Estimated cost: $36.6 million
» Widen Likelike Highway from four to six lanes, from Kamehameha Highway to Kahekilo Highway.
Estimated cost: $14.6 million
Source: Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization