Nimitz contraflow
lane a success

It cut rush hour commuter
travel by 10 to 20 minutes
over a four-month trial

An experimental Nimitz Highway contraflow lane that expanded town-bound traffic at rush hour from three lanes to four has cut commuter travel time between 10 and 20 minutes, according to state transportation officials.

At a news conference yesterday, state Transportation Director Rod Haraga said the four-month experiment has been such a success that the contraflow lane, which costs the state $30,000 a month to operate and is limited to cars with two people or more, will be continued to December.

Haraga said that after that date, the state must seek money to continue. The pilot project had been scheduled to end this Thursday.

"Of course, I'm encouraging people to carpool," said Haraga with a laugh.

Haraga also announced yesterday a $4.4 million project to connect the H-1 ZipLane, which ends near the Pearl Harbor interchange, with the Nimitz contraflow lane. Construction of the 2.7 mile ZipLane extension should take about five months and start by the end of the year.

About 80 percent of the extension project will be funded by the federal government. Most of the cost will go to buying the blocks that form the lane.

The extension would make a continuous route where drivers must now merge into traffic from the ZipLane and travel 2.7 miles before entering the contraflow lane. Haraga said they will also make an egress before Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base so that military commuters can use the ZipLane.

Haraga said the ZipLane is at full capacity, and the state is considering limiting it to cars with three people or more rather than two or more.

Haraga said an independent study, commissioned by the state Department of Transportation, found that during the peak crunch time of 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., the experimental Nimitz contraflow lane carries about 1,000 cars. About 2,000 vehicles use the contraflow each day.

Before the contraflow lane, about 3,800 vehicles drove in the three lanes of Nimitz Highway during peak morning traffic. With the new fourth lane, 4,500 cars pass through the same area at that time. Between 5:30 and 8:30 a.m., about 13,620 vehicles flow through the four lanes. When there were three lanes, only 10,640 vehicles passed in that same time period.

Spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the extra lane has reduced the time that Nimitz is bottlenecked by half an hour.

Initially, a number of businesses on the makai side of Nimitz Highway were opposed to the contraflow lane because of concerns that customers would not be able to make turns out of and into certain establishments.

Ishikawa said the Transportation Department talked to 28 area businesses that raised concerns about the contraflow lane. All of them said the new lane was working, he said.

However, some did raise minor concerns about making "sure this thing is closed up on time," Ishikawa said.

Roy Jones, of Sonitrol of Hawaii, was one of those against the lane.

Many people in his area thought the lane would "keep us trapped," he said.

But Jones said yesterday that he was "fairly happy with the contraflow."

"It's been a very good experiment," he said.


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