Historic sites salute new Pearl Harbor signage
IT HAS HAPPENED at least once to nearly everyone who has driven to a Pearl Harbor memorial or museum -- mistakenly taking the "Pearl Harbor" exit off H-1 West instead of the correct "Arizona Memorial" exit, which immediately follows it.
The result is having to explain to a guard at the main Nimitz Gate into Naval Station Pearl Harbor that you took one exit too early and need to make the "Nimitz Gate U-turn."
Now imagine being one of the millions of visitors driving Oahu highways for the first time, looking for the historic attractions clustered around Pearl Harbor. The fine distinction between Pearl Harbor, Pearl City and the Pearl Harbor naval base is hard to make while driving along roadways with names only kamaaina can pronounce.
But thanks to a yearlong effort spearheaded by Rep. K. Mark Takai, the state has begun modifying highway and road signage to make it easier for visitors to find their way to Oahu's most visited historic sites and give them an easily remembered identity: the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.
Consisting of the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum - Pearl Harbor and Pearl Harbor Historic Trail, the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites collectively accommodate nearly 2 million visitors each year, with visitor interest expected to increase as the Pacific Aviation Museum opens in December and the Pearl Harbor Historic Trail gains further popularity.
AFTER LAST year's introduction of a state House bill to establish the Pearl Harbor Historic District, we began meeting regularly with Takai, as well as Sen. Norman Sakamoto and Rep. Lynn Finnegan. Although the bill eventually was deferred, we continued to meet to discuss other issues, such as the confusing highway signage.
A recent study conducted by University of Hawaii Urban and Regional Planning graduate student Dietra Myers Tremblay found that as many as 15.2 percent (approximately 684) of the people who visit the memorials each day became lost taking "Pearl Harbor" exits. The study also found it slowed traffic flow around Nimitz Gate and jeopardized the safety of other motorists.
We worked with Navy Region Hawaii, the state Department of Transportation and the Outdoor Circle to produce a plan to implement the highway and road sign modifications to correct this problem. After careful study to avoid sign proliferation and clutter, on May 8 the DOT installed six ground-level destination signs along the Nimitz and Kamehameha Highways that read "Pearl Harbor Historic Sites."
THREE OF these signs replaced the existing "USS Arizona Memorial/Submarine Museum" signs on Kamehameha Highway. The other three signs -- on Kamehameha Highway in vicinity of Radford Drive, on Nimitz Highway westbound just after Valkenburgh Street and on H-1 westbound before the Kamehameha Highway exit -- are new. Brown signs were used where permitted because they are nationally recognized as being reserved for historic sites.
The second phase of the sign changes will include replacing the existing large, overhead signs along the H-1 airport viaduct. Those signs now will either say "Pearl Harbor Historic Sites" or "Naval Base" to distinguish between the destinations and deter visitors from the Nimitz Gate. The DOT intends to have these freeway signs installed by the end of November, just in time to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
WE WANT to acknowledge Capt. Taylor Skardon, chief of staff, Commander Navy Region Hawaii and commanding officer, Naval Station Pearl Harbor, who has been an exceptional partner in this project. We also applaud our district legislators, the DOT and Outdoor Circle for listening to our concerns and helping to facilitate a solution that benefits the Pearl Harbor historic sites, the Navy, kamaaina and visitors alike.
The preceding was submitted by: Douglas Lentz, superintendent of the USS Arizona Memorial; Jerry Hofwolt,executive director of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park; Don Hess, president and chief operating officer of the Battleship Missouri Memorial; Allan Palmer, executive director and CEO of the Pacific Aviation Museum -- Pearl Harbor; and Robyn Blanpied, president, Friends of Pearl Harbor Historic Trail.