JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D-Waipahu, Honouliuli, West Loch, Ewa) has proposed to the state Department of Transportation that if the Waipahu merge from Farrington Highway heading northbound were made to a yield, Ewa motorists would have two lanes instead of one to access H-1 eastbound, reducing the congestion in the area. However, some Waipahu residents think the yield would worsen their commute.
Cabanilla floats fix for traffic
An Ewa Beach elected official says she knows how to ease the commute for thousands of Ewa Beach motorists, but her plan could upset other nearby residents.
Rep. Rida Cabanilla says restriping lanes on Kunia Road, starting at the Farrington Highway overpass, would improve traffic flow for townbound Ewa Beach residents going to H-1.
In a plan Cabanilla presented to the state Department of Transportation, a lane that Waipahu residents use to enter H-1 eastbound would become an extra lane for Ewa Beach residents. Vehicles from Waipahu would then merge into Ewa Beach traffic.
Cabanilla (D-Waipahu, Honouliuli, West Loch, Ewa) said her plan could alleviate a rush-hour bottleneck caused by 50,000 Ewa Beach motorists merging into one lane. The overpass has two lanes with one heading north and the other heading to H-1.
Scott Ishikawa, former Transportation Department spokesman, said recently that discussions on Cabanilla's idea are still premature.
Engineers need to study the impact of lane changes on the Waipahu and Ewa Beach communities, then get suggestions from residents, he said.
"We'd like to sit down with the community before moving ahead with anything," he said. "This is still in the conceptual stage."
Currently, the Department of Transportation is working on a $60 million project to widen Fort Weaver Road from four lanes to six.
Some Waipahu residents who were told about the idea opposed it.
"That'll never work," said George Yakowenko, vice chairman of the Waipahu Neighborhood Board, who said he was speaking for himself and not the board. Yakowenko, an upper Waipahu resident, drives down that lane to get to the freeway. "If they made that a yield, in the morning you would never get out because the traffic would never let you in," said Yakowenko. "It would create havoc."
Cabanilla, who represents lower Waipahu, said Waipahu residents shouldn't complain because they have several access points to H-1, while Ewa Beach residents have only one.
"There will be some people that would be affected by it, but it's hardly used," she said. "It's not really a useful fight for them because Waipahu residents are better served getting on" near Waipahu High School.
Some Waipahu residents supported the idea. "It will be faster (for Ewa Beach residents)," said Elaine Armas, of Waipahu. "It would be nice."
But Richard Oshiro, chairman of the Waipahu Neighborhood Board, said he's not sure the answer to Ewa Beach's traffic woes is cutting out Waipahu residents.
Royal Kunia and Village Park residents also use the targeted Waipahu lane, and traffic will grow as homes are built in Royal Kunia, Oshiro said.
"It's at capacity right now, if not over," he said. "It might certainly speed up the Ewa residents, but it's going to back everything else."
One Ewa resident who only identified himself as Michael N. also opposed the lane change.
"It could be kind of dangerous," he said, adding that Waipahu residents would be entering rushing traffic. "It's going to be hard."
Besides affecting Waipahu traffic, the lane restriping would also affect bicyclists who use a shoulder lane on the Farrington Highway overpass. The right shoulder would become a third lane of traffic, forcing bicyclists onto another path.
Cabanilla said she has never seen a bicyclist on the shoulder in 20 years. She plans to present her proposal to the Waipahu Neighborhood Board at its May 22 meeting.