Waikiki repairs on
a bumpy road

Some residents are angered by
the improvements and unexpected

The city's planned improvements to Kuhio Avenue, which include taking out middle turn lanes, widening sidewalks and installing medians, are angering some Waikiki residents and business owners, who say the changes will make traffic worse.

Modifications to the avenue will make way for the city's Bus Rapid Transit project and are also part of a push to beautify the Waikiki thoroughfare, city Managing Director Ben Lee said. Crews began working on the road late last month and are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

"I believe when it's all said and done, people would much rather have a wider sidewalk," Lee said, adding that changes to the street were made public long before any work began. "One of the key points of livable communities is making it pedestrian-friendly."

Once the $19 million project is complete, Kuhio Avenue will have landscaped medians between Kalakaua and Kapahulu avenues, wider sidewalks and ornamental traffic signals and lights.

Royal Contracting Co. is working on a stretch of road between Kaiulani and Kapahulu avenues, while Hawaiian Dredging Co.'s construction will be centered between Kaiulani and Kalakaua avenues.

"The biggest concern is the traffic," said John Kaimi, chairman of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board. "We need the street for traffic control."

Kaimi said the board plans to circulate a petition at its meeting tomorrow in favor of stopping the project "from attacking all these streets." In addition to the Kuhio Avenue improvements, work to widen sidewalks and install planters on Ala Wai is expected to begin this summer.

"They are knowingly going to make traffic worse," said Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, whose district includes Waikiki. "While I'm a proponent of improving Kuhio Avenue, I am not a proponent of making traffic worse."

The city released renderings of the revamped street last year, but a number of residents say they only learned of the improvements just before work started.

Sharon Chun, a Waikiki property manager, said she received notice Feb. 23 from Royal Contracting announcing the company's plans to start work on Kuhio Avenue the next day.

"It was like, huh?" Chun said. "Waikiki has always been a major safety and traffic problem when any major event occurs. ... These improvements were quietly approved, but now that it's happening, a large number of the area's citizens are saying some items will endanger safety."

Tim Haverly, who has worked in Waikiki for 40 years, said some modifications to Kuhio late last week were done so quickly that several motorists got confused by the new driving patterns and almost got into accidents.

In one instance Thursday, a middle turn lane at the intersection of Kuhio and Seaside avenues was converted into a straight lane for Ewa-bound traffic.

But, said Haverly, the arrow indicating the lane was for turning was not blacked out until Friday, confusing drivers overnight going in both directions. Also, no signs were posted alerting drivers to the changes.

"I almost got hit by a car going Koko Head making a left onto Seaside," Haverly said. "I think (the change) was poorly planned and rushed through."

Both Lee and Chris Jarrett, the project's construction manager, said the oversight was an isolated one.

"The contractor," which in that case was Hawaiian Dredging, "is supposed to eradicate the lines ... as they are going," Jarrett said.


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