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Obama departs Oahu; traffic stopped for more than an hour

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 6:43 p.m. HST, Nov 15, 2011

Photo Gallery: President Obama's departure

President Barack Obama left Hawaii today en route to Australia for a series of meetings aimed at strengthening the United States' presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The president’s motorcade from the J.W. Marriott Ihilani resort in Ko Olina to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam closed the east-bound lanes of the H-1 Freeway for more than an hour during the morning commute.

Obama's motorcade arrived at the air field at 8:36 a.m. and was met by a group of 40 to 50 servicemen and women who were selected by their units’ leaders to attend and get a chance to meet the commander in chief.

The president spent a few minutes shaking hands and greeting the service members from all branches of the military. He boarded Air Force One at 8:40 a.m. after a brief exchange with Adm. Robert Willard, head of U.S. Pacific Command; Gen. Gary North, head of Pacific Air Forces; and Col. Sam C. Barrett, commander of the 15th Wing based at Hickam.

The president’s visit to Honolulu lasted a little more than four days and involved high-level diplomacy at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, a fundraiser and an afternoon of golf.

A small group of employees and guests waved and snapped photos as the motorcade left the Ihilani resort at 8:12 a.m. Pool reporters traveling with the president saw a class of elementary school students waving to the motorcade behind a chain-link fence along the route.

Police began closing the H-1 Freeway at about 7:30 a.m., but the motorcade did not proceed to the base until the rush-hour traffic that remained on the freeway had cleared to the airport.

Honolulu city traffic cameras showed roads leading to the freeway, including the H-2 Freeway, Kamehameha Highway and Fort Weaver Road backing up with cars. Police vehicles also were on freeway overpasses to block motorists from crossing the freeway during the closure.

Traffic cameras also showed the freeway opening as the motorcade passed. The first cars on the freeway moved quickly, but the heavy traffic back-up resumed as more cars returned to the road.

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