Traffic merged yesterday at the Lunalilo onramp on the Ewa-bound H-1 freeway as seen from the Ward Avenue overpass. The onramp will be closed in the morning rush hour starting tomorrow to test whether it will ease morning traffic.

Easing congestion

A three-month demonstration project
will close the Lunalilo Street onramp

Starting tomorrow, morning commuters won't be able to use the Lunalilo Street onramp to get on the Waianae-bound lanes of the H-1 Freeway.

Instead, motorists using the ramp will be routed to the Punchbowl Street onramp via Vineyard Boulevard from 6 to 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

The change is part of a nearly three-month demonstration project by the state Department of Transportation to ease congestion on the freeway and in lower Makiki. It is common for Waianae-bound traffic to back up past the University of Hawaii into Kaimuki. Transportation Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the Punchbowl onramp is underutilized in the mornings.

The project runs through Oct. 29 at a cost of $200,000.


White poles placed on the ground will separate motorists coming up the ramp from Lunalilo Street from those exiting the freeway on the Vineyard offramp.

The separation will prevent a "criss-crossing" motion that backs up traffic, Ishikawa said.

"By taking out an onramp, we'll actually be alleviating some of the traffic," said Ishikawa, who added that having an onramp and offramp so close to each other was poor planning.

About 4,000 vehicles an hour are on the Lunalilo and Vineyard ramps during weekday mornings, he said.

"Anything that can solve the congestion is worth a try," said Martin Schiller, a member of the Makiki/Lower Punchbowl/Tantalus Neighborhood Board. "I hope it works because the congestion in that area (Makiki) is horrendously bad."

Schiller said getting onto the freeway using the Lunalilo onramp usually takes less than five minutes, but in the morning rush hour, it takes 15 minutes.

Tracy Ryan, a Makiki resident, said the project is a bad idea and the traffic in Makiki is a "minor inconvenience."

"The closure's going to anger drivers and I'm not sure it's necessary," she said.

Makiki Neighborhood Board chairman John Steelquist is concerned that motorists will use alternate routes.

"People are going to change and move around, and it's going to jam up both Punahou (Street) and Wilder (Avenue)," he said. "It's going to be a real mess come school time."

The UH conducted the same experiment in 1997, which seemed to improve traffic toward the end of the two-week project, said Ishikawa.

At that time, the reaction was split down the middle, according to surveys given to motorists and residents, said Panos Prevedouros, UH-Manoa associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, who coordinated the project and is collecting data for the upcoming one.

Prevedouros found traffic improved by 15 percent, or about three minutes, for the commute from 6th Avenue to Lunalilo.

"Every little bit we save has a cumulative response which translates to a huge response," he said.

Transportation officials will be passing out surveys toward the end of the project, and with the collected research, they will determine if the project should be made permanent.


Other Oahu road closures

>> The westbound lanes of the H-1 freeway will be closed from the School Street onramp to the Puuloa Interchange on Moanalua Freeway from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Motorists are advised to take either Dillingham Boulevard or Nimitz Highway.

>> The Kaneohe-bound lanes of the Likelike Highway will be closed from Valley View Drive to the Wilson Tunnel from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. today.

Motorists may want to take either Pali Highway or the H-3 freeway.



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