CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dietra Myers Tremblay stands by a new road sign designed to keep tourists from straying onto the Pearl Harbor Navy base. Tremblay, a graduate student in urban planning who lives in Navy housing, investigated how many motorists got lost, and why. Brown signs indicate sightseeing attractions nationwide.
Top tourist site now easier to find
Drivers to the Arizona Memorial often exit at Pearl Harbor base
Tourists Dejuan and Lisa Trotter, fresh off the plane from Dallas, thought they were headed for the USS Arizona Memorial yesterday, but instead wound up facing a huffy guard at Pearl Harbor Naval Base.
"We're usually pretty good on directions," said Lisa Trotter, noting that they had followed the signs for Pearl Harbor. "It's totally confusing."
The Trotters are among several hundred motorists every day who get lost by taking the Pearl Harbor exit that leads to the military base rather than the historic sites of Pearl Harbor a mile away. But officials hope that will change soon, thanks to the efforts of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Task Force and a Navy wife who documented the problem.
Six new signs went up Monday along Nimitz and Kamehameha highways with the words "Pearl Harbor Historic Sites." By the end of November, overhead signs on the H-1 freeway will also be changed to help steer people in the right direction.
Instead of "Pearl Harbor," the new signs for the military base will simply read "Naval Base," while signs that once said Arizona Memorial will be changed to "Pearl Harbor Historic Sites."
Rep. K. Mark Takai (D-Newtown-Pearl City) said the move will also help "re-brand" the destination to reflect the various sites beyond the Arizona Memorial: the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pearl Harbor Historic Trail and the Pacific Aviation Museum, which is due to open in December.
"You can't just call it the Arizona Memorial anymore," he said.
Dietra Myers Tremblay, a graduate student in urban and regional planning at the University of Hawaii, first noticed the problem because she kept getting stopped by confused tourists near her home in Navy housing. She was also worried that unnecessary traffic at Nimitz Gate could present security concerns.
"Nimitz Gate is so backed up because the gate guards are always turning around tourists," she said. "I asked if I could count the tourists and interview the guards."
Over the course of 14 days of observation last September, she found that as many as 684 tourists arrived at and bypassed Nimitz Gate in a single day. That is 15 percent of the 4,500 daily visitors to the Arizona Memorial, and a far higher percentage of motorists headed there, since many tourists arrive by bus.
The Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Task Force brought together legislators, representatives of the historic sites, Navy Region Hawaii, the state Department of Transportation and the Outdoor Circle to come up with plans to replace signs.
"When you're going at freeway speeds, you only have a few seconds to make a decision," said Rodney Haraga, director of the Department of Transportation. "With the new language, we hope to make things clearer."
Daniel Martinez, historian for the USS Arizona Memorial, said the issue has been a concern for years, and the data gathered by Tremblay hastened the solution.
"It was so well done and so eye-opening, it became evident that there was a significant need for this to be done," he said.