RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Rod Haraga, state Department of Transportation director, urged motorists yesterday o prepare for the upcoming traffic crunch.
TRAFFIC CRUNCH TIME
Prepare for traffic jams next week with more than 50,000 students back on the road
The party's over next week for thousands of local students returning to school from summer vacation -- but also for motorists who have enjoyed relatively breezy summertime commutes.
By the end of next week, more than 50,000 private-school and university students will have resumed classes, clogging roads and highways with thousands more cars, according to state and county transportation officials who reissued annual pleas yesterday for motorists to adjust schedules and consider carpooling.
"We're advising commuters to leave early or later to avoid the morning rush hour; to make sure their vehicles are maintained -- we don't want them breaking down on our freeways; and we're encouraging alternative modes of transportation," said Rodney Haraga, director of the state Department of Transportation.
The bulk of the impact will be felt on Monday, when 40,000 students in the University of Hawaii system's six Oahu campuses report back for the fall semester, half of them at UH-Manoa.
BACK IN SCHOOL
Some of the larger schools and colleges on Oahu that will reopen in the coming weeks:
||Honolulu Community College
||Kapiolani Community College
||Leeward Community College
||Windward Community College
||Hawaii Pacific University
The state public schools, with their 180,000 students, reopened more than two weeks ago. But since most of that traffic is confined to local school neighborhoods, the islandwide impact is minimal compared with the reopening of UH and large private schools like Punahou and Iolani with their hordes of commuting students.
"That's where we really feel the crunch," said transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa.
To help keep things moving, the state is suspending nearly all daytime highway construction from Monday to Sept. 5, the day after Labor Day.
All city and county roadwork, meanwhile, will be confined to between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on major city roads, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. near schools. The city restrictions will end Sept. 1.
Staff stationed in the city's Traffic Management Center also will monitor traffic and adjust the timing, as needed, of the 250 city traffic lights that are remotely controllable, said Melvin Kaku, director of the city Department of Transportation Services.
Kaku urged motorists to take care of their cars, "be cautious and always drive with aloha."
"Every minute of lane blockage due to an accident or stalled vehicle equates to approximately 10 minutes of extra (commute) time," Kaku said.
Officials urged commuters to carpool, ride TheBus, bike, walk or utilize programs like Vanpool Hawaii, under which a carpool group gains use of a van at a cost of $55 per person per month.
For those who need to drive, Haraga said past recommendations that motorists leave up to 30 minutes earlier, depending on where they live, might no longer be valid.
"If you're driving from West Oahu, a half-hour earlier is not that early anymore," he said.
BEATING THE SCHOOL JAM
Besides carpooling, walking and biking, other commuting alternatives are available:
TheBus: Offers express service during rush hours; special passes for youths, UH students and others. Employers also can purchase tax-deductible bus passes for their workers.
Vanpool Hawaii: Vehicles are available to groups of four or more at a cost of $55 per person per month for vans and $70 per person for SUVs. The vehicles can be kept overnight and weekends.
LOTMA (Leeward Oahu Transportation Management Association): Arranges car pools and offers commuter coach services from residents from Leeward and Central Oahu.
Source: State Department of Transportation, Honolulu Department of Transportation Services
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
» Kamehameha Schools elementary and middle-school students returned for the fall semester yesterday while high school students return today. An information box on Page A3 yesterday incorrectly implied that all students would return to classes today.