RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The sixth westbound lane on the H-1 freeway near Waimalu, shown here yesterday, is scheduled to open today.
New H-1 westbound lane opens
The sixth lane near Waimalu will take motorists directly onto the Pearl City offramp
A two-year, $60 million project to alleviate bottlenecks on parts of the H-1 freeway in Leeward Oahu officially ends today, as transportation officials prepared to open a long-awaited sixth lane.
State Department of Transportation officials were to hold a small ceremony this morning before opening the lane near Waimalu for westbound motorists.
Scott Ishikawa, Department of Transportation spokesman, said the new far-right lane will take motorists directly onto the Pearl City offramp. An adjacent lane will fork into two lanes for those who either want to head to the Pearl City offramp or continue heading Ewa.
The sixth westbound lane, which originally ended at the Kaonohi overpass, was extended another 1.5 miles toward the Pearl City offramp, Ishikawa said.
The discovery of ground utility lines, and heavy rain that drenched Oahu earlier this year, delayed the completion of the project. The stormy weather caused workers to lose at least eight weekends of roadwork to pour concrete, Ishikawa said.
The state shut down all westbound lanes on the H-1 freeway from the Kaonohi overpass to the Pearl City offramp on Friday and Saturday nights to re-stripe the new lane. Two new freeway signs were also installed.
The state decided to widen that portion of the H-1 freeway because a bottleneck formed along that section, right after another bottleneck that is created by the mergings of the Moanalua, H-1 and H-3 freeways.
"It's kind of a double whammy. We wanted to take care of the second bottleneck and push it Ewa," Ishikawa said.
Some residents of Waimalu Gardens, who live directly below the site, said they are happy that the project is finally completed.
"Anything to help those on the West side," said Scott Sugai, a former Ewa Beach resident of 12 years who moved to his mother-in-law's home on Ponokaulike Street with his family in August. Hopefully it helps reduce traffic congestion, Sugai said.
"I think anything to help alleviate traffic is a blessing," said Mary Lapenia, of Aiea.
Ishikawa said they plan to close the westbound lanes of H-1 within the next few months to conduct inspections of the concrete material used for the project.
BACK TO TOP
Freeway to add lane for Windward-bound
Re-striping will easily link the Liliha onramp to the Pali offramp
Call it the Costco connection.
This summer, the state Department of Transportation plans to add a fourth lane on the Lunalilo Freeway in the Koko Head direction between the Liliha Street onramp and the Pali Highway offramp.
That will enable drivers to get from Iwilei and Kapalama to Pali Highway from the Liliha Street onramp without having to merge onto the freeway -- a popular route for Windward Oahu residents returning home from Costco in Iwilei.
Panos Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii at Manoa traffic engineering expert, said a survey showed that 25 percent of the drivers entering the Liliha onramp exit at Pali Highway.
"Therefore, 200 to 500 vehicles per hour, depending on the time of day, enter the freeway for just a few seconds, take valuable space, generate flow turbulence, and then exit," Prevedouros wrote in an e-mail message from Greece, where he is managing a conference on freeways.
He estimates the delay on what he called the "Liliha bottleneck" will be reduced to two minutes from four minutes after the change.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Many vehicles that merge onto the H-1 from the Liliha onramp exit immediately at the Pali offramp.
The extra lane should also make it easier for cars to merge into and exit the freeway, Prevedouros said.
"Basically when we connect two busy ramps (such as the next couplet of ramps: Pali/Kinau), an auxiliary lane between the two is essential," Prevedouros wrote.
The cost will be minimal because the state will simply re-stripe the area to narrow the existing lanes to 11 feet from 12 feet, and use the shoulder to create the extra lane.
The cost of actually building an extra lane between Liliha and Pali Highway has been estimated at roughly $3.4 million.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the state recently got approval from the federal government to narrow the freeway lanes instead, and the design of the new lane is being finalized.
Ishikawa said the state would use existing money in its highway maintenance budget to re-stripe the freeway.
"We want to try and get this done before the back-to-school rush," Ishikawa said.