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Traffic snarls in Kinau area will remain tangled awhile

For Friday, July 22, 2011

By Gene Park

LAST UPDATED: 02:01 a.m. HST, Jul 22, 2011

When I lived in Makiki near Punchbowl, taking the Kinau and Lusitana streets merge off the H-1 was probably my least favorite way to go home.

It’s not scenic. It’s crowded. It’s a bumpy ride. It really soured my day.

That’s definitely been true in the past year, since the $8.8 million Kinau Street offramp project has been under way.

The project creates a right turn lane into Lusitana Street from the Kinau offramp. The result is hopefully a smaller bottleneck at the merge, and easier ambulance access to the Queen’s Medical Center. My colleague June Watanabe reported in “Kokua Line” in March that the project was supposed to be done in May.

It’s almost August, and I’m still getting emails complaining about the construction and traffic through there.

I moved from Makiki early this year, but this week I drove into the merge just to see how things were. Same old same-old, except with a bunch of large crash barrels, and the right turn lane nearly complete. So what’s the holdup?

I called the Kinau Street offramp hot line, 585-5048, manned by the staff at the Queen’s Medical Center. A friendly, cheerful woman answered and said the project was still undergoing landscaping and that it would be a “few more months” until it’s done.

Turns out, there was a change order in the project that called for some landscaping at the Diamond Head side of the offramp, according to the state Department of Transportation.

This landscaping includes installing street lights to ensure pedestrian and motorist safety, said a Queen’s spokesman.

But even when that gets done, the new lane won’t open. Queen’s and the city are working together on improvements at the Lunalilo and Alapai streets intersection, which also feeds into Kinau Street.

Area residents have asked that the intersection be widened and that additional signage and lighting be put in. Transportation officials do not want to open the new lane just to have drivers head straight into another road project. That would be like the traffic equivalent of going from the frying pan into the fire.

Here’s another issue bugging readers:

Question: Do the members of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation receive compensation?

Answer: I get asked this at least every other week. So nope, the HART board, believe it or not, is made up of volunteers — high-powered volunteers for sure, but unpaid nonetheless.

Reach Gene Park at gpark@staradvertiser.com, or Twitter as @GenePark.

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