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Obama's motorcade will close roads

The American president and other leaders arrive today, snarling routes into Waikiki

By Dan Nakaso and Gregg K. Kakesako


LAST UPDATED: 1:53 a.m. HST, Nov 11, 2011

Despite today's arrival of President Barack Obama and at least nine other delegations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, traffic congestion could ease up with fewer cars on the road because of today's Veterans Day holiday, state transportation officials said.

But drivers should continue to expect unannounced, APEC-related delays through Tuesday, city officials said.

Drivers continued to complain about traffic Thursday after Humvees and armed soldiers blocked some Honolulu intersections to guard the arrival of Chinese President Hu Jintao for the APEC conference. Some roads between Honolulu Airport and Waikiki were closed for 40 minutes, city transportation officials said.

Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang also arrived later on Thursday.

"I think the worst is over," said Dan Meisenzahl, state Department of Transportation spokesman.

People trying to avoid APEC-related congestion have called the DOT to find out "when the motorcades are coming," Meisenzahl said. But when DOT officials tell the callers that the Secret Service keeps motorcade routes secret for security reasons, "they're not happy," Meisenzahl said.

APEC barricades and road closures also prompted the city's Department of Environmental Services to close all refuse facilities on Sunday -- and to postpone Saturday's bulky item collections in Waikiki until Tuesday.

City transportation officials also will continue to detour bus routes in and around Waikiki because of the security zone around the Hawai'i Convention Center.

Mayor Peter Carlisle warned drivers to expect at least an hour's delay today as authorities close portions of Nimitz Highway and the H-1 freeway and some feeder roads --from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to Waikiki -- to accommodate dignitaries' motorcades.

Hu's arrival after 8 a.m. Thursday was accompanied by heavily armed soldiers and armored Humvees that blocked feeder roads to the H-1 freeway, such as the Pali Highway offramp, backing up morning traffic as far as Waokanaka Road in Nuuanu Valley.

Roadblocks and other delays have disrupted morning commutes across the island this week and have been particularly heavy in East Honolulu, Meisenzahl said.

"People have to remember that what we're dealing with on the east side is what people experience every day on the west side," he said.

In general, Meisenzahl said, "traffic is moving but it's not moving very quickly."

Air Force One is scheduled to touch down at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam tonight. Obama's arrival will temporarily close portions of Nimitz Highway and the H-1 freeway -- and some feeder roads -- so Obama's motorcade can travel to the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki.

Obama will host a reception and dinner for APEC leaders Saturday night at the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki.

Traffic will be disrupted again on Sunday when the APEC leaders and their entourages travel from Waikiki to the JW Marriott Hawaii hotel at Ko Olina, where the Coast Guard will enforce a maritime security zone "to ensure the safety of the president of the United States and his official party," the Coast Guard said.

The security zone is scheduled to be in effect from 11 p.m. Sunday through 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Both Carlisle and Meisenzahl continued to ask drivers to show patience.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime event for the people of Hawaii," Meisenzahl said. "We're just asking everyone for their patience and we'll get through this."

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