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Waterline breaks and drivers suffer

A fracture in a 12-inch main floods Ala Moana Boulevard and wrecks traffic flow

By Michael Tsai

LAST UPDATED: 1:42 a.m. HST, Aug 21, 2010

A break in a 12-inch water main early yesterday morning flooded Ala Moana Boulevard near the Prince Kuhio Federal Building, damaging the roadway and turning what would likely have been light holiday traffic into patience-draining gridlock for most of the day and night.

The break was reported just after 5:30 a.m. and resulted in all lanes of the high-traffic corridor between Alakea and Punchbowl streets being closed. The federal building and a Coast Guard station were left without water for part of the morning.

The right and center lanes in the Koko Head direction were reopened by midmorning, but all Ewa-bound lanes remained closed throughout the day with traffic diverted to South Street.

By late afternoon, Board of Water Supply crews had repaired the broken pipe and were working on a second, unrelated leak discovered during the initial repair. Ala Moana Boulevard was expected to remain closed through most of the evening for final repairs, cleanup and re-pavement.

The closing spread traffic headaches across a 3-mile radius as drivers re-routed to adjoining streets in the Kakaako, downtown and Ala Moana areas.

While Koko Head-bound traffic on Ala Moana Boulevard moved slowly but steadily through much of the afternoon, it slowed considerably during the 5 p.m. rush hour with cars backed up along Nimitz Highway, prompting one police officer to declare the situation a "nonholiday holiday" for traffic.

As pedestrians stepped carefully on silt-covered sidewalks on Ala Moana Boulevard, drivers yawned, rolled their eyes and made "I'll be late" calls via Bluetooth as they inched their way along Ward Avenue, South Street, Pohukaina Street and other crowded roadways.

Late in the afternoon, Coca-Cola service technician Roy Ajifu found himself mired in stop-and-go traffic as he made the right turn from Kaheka Street to Kona Street near Ala Moana Center. It took him nearly half an hour to reach Restaurant Row just two miles away.

"Everybody was trying to find other ways to get where they were going, and then they realized that everybody else had the same idea," he said, shaking his head. "Thank goodness it was a holiday or it would have been a lot worse."

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