Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Castle traffic contingencies
in place

Question: When road construction or repair funnels all vehicle traffic into one lane to a traffic light-controlled intersection, such as is happening at Castle Junction, is it possible to obtain better traffic flow if traffic was either controlled by traffic officers, the lights were retimed or a combination of both?

Answer: Since you mentioned the state's Castle Junction project, we posed your question to the state Department of Transportation, although it is the city Department of Transportation Services that controls traffic lights.

There will be a police officer at that intersection -- where the Pali, Kalanianaole and Kamehameha highways come together -- while work to excavate the hillside continues, but he will not be there to direct traffic.

"If traffic gets too heavy, he will make the call to take off the lane closure to let traffic through, then eventually let construction start up again," said Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa.

The Transportation Department has shut down the left lane in each direction of Kalanianaole Highway while workers build a morning contraflow lane for Kailua motorists heading to town. Work should be completed this week and the contraflow lane open Friday, if weather permits, Ishikawa said.

The contraflow lane idea came from community leaders asking for a way to help ease traffic in the morning, because a landslide took away the right-turn "stack lane" from Kalanianaole onto Kamehameha, he said.

Once completed, the contraflow lane will run 5:30 to 6:45 a.m. weekdays, except state holidays. The lane can't be kept open past 7 a.m. because it will disrupt traffic in all directions at Castle Junction, Ishikawa said.

Once the contraflow is in place, Goodfellow Brothers, the contractor, will work mainly from the rear of the cliff to minimize disruption to traffic along Kalanianaole. "The intent is to excavate in the day and haul away as much dirt as we can late at night," Ishikawa said.

Eventually, workers will have "to tackle the front side of the cliff, but that probably won't be for a while," he said.

Meanwhile, Ishikawa said manually controlling the lights is not considered an option, because "controlling the traffic signal can mess up the timing for the whole junction if not done properly," especially since the intersection is busy in all directions.

In the morning, motorists headed toward town on Kalanianaole already get four minutes of green light while those headed in the other directions get a minute or less, he said.

The problem is "a very constricted area for traffic," with no shoulders and no right-turn stacking lane, Ishikawa said. "We are asking for drivers' patience and to add extra travel time or take an alternate route into town."

The $7.8 million project involves scaling back the 80-degree slope on the hillside to a 26-degree slope and hauling away 24,000 truckloads of dirt. The right lane that runs along the hillside also will be widened to 12 feet and an eight-foot shoulder and six-foot drainage gutter will be added.

The work is expected to take about six months.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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