State aims to unclog H-1 freeway


POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Commuters going east by the Middle Street merge - labeled the 41st-worst bottleneck in the country last year by traffic analyst INRIX - would save precious minutes of driving time under one of two proposals showcased yesterday.

;[Preview] State Unveils Two Major Projects To Relieve H-1 Traffic

The projects are expected to relieve traffic conjestion on Oahu.

Watch ]


  Motorists headed west on the H-1 freeway in the afternoon rush hour would also benefit.

State Transportation Director Brennon Morioka presented the plans, estimated to shave commuters' travel time by 10 to 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon crushes.

“;This is intended to improve the quality of life,”; said Morioka.

The overall costs are estimated at $155 million. Eighty percent of each project will be federally funded, while 20 percent of each project will be state funded.

One of the projects involves an afternoon contra-flow lane - a lane to be added on the H-1 freeway for westbound commuters during peak traffic. With the success of the ZipperLane for eastbound commuters in the morning, transportation officials wanted to use the same concept to ease the afternoon commute in the opposite direction.

Currently, there are four general-purpose lanes and a car pool lane. The plan calls for adding a general-purpose lane on the H-1 freeway from Radford Drive to the Waiawa Interchange by using an eastbound lane. Morioka said the project is expected to save motorists five to 10 minutes.

Movable concrete barriers will remain fixed for the extra general-purpose lane and the car pool lane, which means the ZipMobile will no longer be needed to retract and deploy the barriers. Multiple emergency gates will be installed along the contra-flow lanes.

Dean Hazama, chairman of the Mililani Mauka/Launani Valley Neighborhood Board, said motorists will benefit from the emergency gates that are expected to help reduce congestion should a major accident occur.

The project will be done in two phases. Construction of the so-called PM Contraflow lane will occur in the first phase. The second phase will include widening the existing H-1 freeway from the Waiawa Interchange to the Waikele offramp.

The second proposal involves adding a lane to the H-1 freeway for eastbound commuters to alleviate bottlenecking at the Middle Street merge during peak morning traffic. The extra lane will stretch from the Middle Street merge or Ola Lane to Vineyard Boulevard. The project is expected to reduce trips by up to 20 minutes during the morning, afternoon and weekend peak traffic times.

“;This is going to be one of the most impactful and meaningful projects that the Department of Transportation has done in a very, very long time,”; said Morioka, describing the merge as one of the worst bottlenecks in the state, if not one of the worst in the country.

He noted that the Middle Street merge bottleneck existed in the early 1970s and has continued to worsen.

“;Residents have waited far too long for congestion relief on their highways,”; he said. “;We simply cannot wait to start, as it is unacceptable to allow this condition of congestion to worsen over the years.”;

Six bridge abutments will be modified, and land acquisition on the makai side of the H-1 freeway is planned to make way for the extra lane. Morioka said he does not anticipate any homes to be affected.

Both projects are part of the Department of Transportation's capital improvement budget previously requested from the state Legislature. Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and Rep. Marilyn Lee said they support the plans.

While Morioka acknowledged that both projects are costly, he said, “;We've had to make some tough decisions. These are very large, high-priced items, so it is impacting our financial plan. So when we look at the benefits of these two, it's definitely worth doing and needed.”;




Westbound H-1 freeway contra-flow project

        » A lane will be contra-flowed using an eastbound lane, extending from Radford Drive to the Waiawa Interchange, about a 6-mile stretch.

» The extra lane is expected to reduce commute time by 10 minutes.


» Construction date: January 2010


» Completion date: Mid-2011


» Cost: $55 million for two phases. Eighty percent will be federally funded, while 20 percent will be state funded.


Source: State Department of Transportation




Eastbound H-1 freeway widening project

        » An eastbound lane will be added from Ola Lane to Vineyard Boulevard.

» The extra lane is expected to reduce commute time by 20 minutes by eliminating the Middle Street merge, where traffic backs up.


» Construction date: Early 2011


» Completion date: Late 2013


» Cost: $100 million. Eighty percent will be federally funded, while 20 percent will be state funded.


Source: State Department of Transportation