Pensacola and Piikoi
streets get second look

Mauka, makai.

Those two simple directional words have dominated a 35-year debate since Piikoi Street was made one-way heading mauka and Pensacola Street one-way heading makai in 1970.


Judging by the ongoing debate, it was never a comfortable decision.

Yesterday, two of the top transportation officials met to discuss whether to reverse the flow. Sounds simple enough, but reversing a street's direction, and people's habits, is no simple matter.

Officials are concerned about modification costs --$800,000 the last time they checked -- and the impact to residents and businesses along both streets. And they fear that in trying to ease city traffic on its way to the H-1, a change might make it worse.

"The most important thing is to discuss this proposal with the owners along those two streets," said Ed Hirata, director of the city Department of Transportation Services. "These streets have been one way for over 30 years. People have gotten used to it."

He added: "Whenever you change the one way direction of a street, you need to take in account how the property owners are going to be affected. I do not see this as a simple project, and we need a lot of discussion before we make any decisions."

Hirata met with Rod Haraga, director of the state Department of Transportation, and requested a copy of a study conducted by a consultant who looked at reversing the traffic flow on both streets.

During the afternoon rush hour, cars pile up along Piikoi and Lunalilo streets as they attempt to enter the freeway. For many drivers it's one of the more frustrating corridors in the city. On the worst of days, it can take 20 to 30 minutes just to reach the freeway.

"There is a lot of congestion at Lunalilo Street where the cars are trying to get on the freeway," Hirata said.

A resident calls the congestion "stacking," and he fears it will only get worse if the streets are reversed.

"Right now there is a lot of stacking cars along Lunalilo getting up to the freeway, and it also goes down Piikoi," said John Breinich, chairman of the Ala Moana/Kakaako Neighborhood Board. "If you reverse this, cars will then stack on Pensacola to get on the freeway. The stacking ... will be much longer because you don't have that Lunalilo stretch."

Reversing the roads looks like a simple solution, but Breinich said residents are not sure it is going to be that easy.

Piikoi and Pensacola are city streets, but Lunalilo, which crosses both, is a state road, adding yet another complication.

But ultimately, Haraga said, both the state and the city are dealing with a safety issue.

Vehicles traveling Ewa-bound on the Lunalilo offramp get backlogged on the H-1 freeway, creating potential problems.

"We want to clear the intersection," Haraga said.

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com