H-1 fixes worthwhile even for short term


POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2009

So awful is Oahu's traffic congestion that even when the state is pinching pennies, spending tens of millions for H-1 improvements that promise to cut commutes for just a few years after completion is a defensible plan.

That said, decisions about land use, further development and population growth in the Central and Leeward regions of the island cannot continue to be disconnected from traffic issues. Even as the city moves rail transit forward and as the “;second city”; concept creates jobs in the area, congestion won't decrease without a different growth model.

The Lingle administration hopes that by 2013, uncorking the bottleneck at the Middle Street merge, adding an exit lane at Vineyard Boulevard and contraflow lanes from Radford Drive to the Waiawa interchange will pare average rush-hour commuting time on the H-1 by as much as 30 minutes.

The federal government will pay for 80 percent of the cost for the projects, estimated at a total of $155 million. In addition to enhancing traffic flow, Gov. Linda Lingle and state lawmakers say the projects will help boost the economy with new jobs.

That's all well and good, but as Transportation Director Brennon Morioka cautioned, the projects' benefits will be transitory, overtaken as development proceeds in West Oahu.

Residents who face daily traffic hassles will welcome the fixes but should bear in mind that coming and going will always be a struggle as long they take to the roads.