State of Hawaii

State targets
Nimitz logjam

It is planning a contraflow
lane as early as next fall
for peak commute hours

By Craig Gima

The state is planning a contraflow lane for Nimitz Highway as early as next fall to ease traffic congestion during peak morning commute times.

One Ewa-bound lane of Nimitz would become town-bound from the Keehi Interchange until the point where Nimitz Highway becomes four lanes near Pier 32, just before the Hilo Hattie store.

If the project is successful in reducing commute times, the state will extend the Zipper Lane in 2004 from the H-1 freeway near the airport, where it currently ends, to the contraflow lane on Nimitz, said Ronald Tsuzuki, the head planning engineer for the state Department of Transportation.

"I think it's kind of a great idea," said Louis Ilac, the manager of Lex Brodie's in Kalihi, who commutes from Maili and gets to work at about 6:30 a.m.

Ilac said it will make his drive easier.

Tsuzuki said the hours of the contraflow would be similar to the hours of the Zipper Lane on H-1 freeway: 5:30 a.m. until about 8 a.m.

The DOT hopes to hold public information meetings on the project within two months. Construction to create the cross-over lanes at the beginning and end of the contraflow, to widen the left-hand turn onto Sand Island Access Road and to put in traffic signals facing town-bound in the Ewa lane would start this summer and the contraflow could begin in the fall.

The $5 million contraflow project is seen as a cheaper alternative to a $200 million proposal floated and apparently killed six years ago to extend the airport viaduct toward town.

The contraflow idea has also been floated before and was opposed by businesses on the makai side of Nimitz Highway because of concerns about increased traffic on the narrow streets in those neighborhoods and because left-hand turns into Kalihi Kai would be banned in the morning, except for the turn onto Sand Island Access Road.

Since that time, however, left-hand turns are now restricted on Mokauea Street and Puuhale Road during the morning and businesses have adjusted to that change or moved out of the area.

"It's not impossible to get down here. It just makes it a little more difficult," said Chris Nied, the president of Pacific American Lumber on Mokauea Street. "I don't see that as being a big problem for us."

The Kalihi Palama Neighborhood Board opposed the contraflow proposal in the past. It has not taken a position this year because the DOT has refused to meet with the board about the proposal, said John Dell, the transportation committee chairman of the board.

Tsuzuki said the state is still preparing for public information meetings. He said the state hired a consultant to survey businesses and residents in Kalihi Kai and preliminary results show about 80 percent of them either do not have an opinion or are in favor of the contraflow project.

He said the contraflow project is considered an experiment.

The state will evaluate it after about two months, then decide if it will continue.

"If there's a whole lot of complaints and very little benefit, we could choose to stop the operation," he said.

The $5 million for the project was approved by the Legislature last session. Lawmakers also approved $4 million to extend the Zipper Lane, but Tsuzuki said the DOT will still need federal funds to complete that project. He said the extension will also include the construction of an access lane to the Zipper Lane so that commuters in Pearl City and Aiea can use it.

State Department of Transportation

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --