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$100 million traffic center gets moving

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» The Joint Traffic Management Center is being built on a parcel bounded by Alapai, South King and Kealamakai streets. Kealamakai is misspelled on the map below.


The green light was given years ago to a centralized location for Oahu traffic management, but today marks the first step toward building the ambitious project aimed at responding in real time to traffic woes.

Construction for the Joint Traffic Management Center, projected to cost more than $100 million, begins today with groundbreaking for a 418-stall, five-story parking garage on Alapai Street. The garage project costs about $20 million of city money.

After the garage, the next two phases will bring a number of traffic-related agencies under one roof. The ultimate goal is real-time traffic management.

"That’s where we can monitor traffic flows as it goes and intercede ourselves to help traffic improve," said Wayne Yoshioka, director for the city Department of Transportation Services.

"With the parking separate
from the building, it added
a lot to reduce the complex-
ity of security, and it has
simplified the design con-
Wayne Yoshioka
Director, city Department
of Transportation Services

Currently the city has traffic light timing programs for different times of the day — morning, midday, rush hour and night traffic. By integrating city functions with the state Department of Transportation’s monitoring, city officials will be able to create a wider variety of timing schemes and switch them on the fly.

"This integration would be not only through cameras, but other devices like speed sensors," Yoshioka said.

The connectivity will also seek to improve accident response times, communication between the agencies and disaster preparedness.

The city has been planning for the center since 2004. In 2007, preliminary planning called for a 10-story building, including parking in the building. The cost projection then was about $73 million.

The design of the traffic center has yet to be finalized. Yoshioka said the building will be "four or five" stories tall.

The city decided to separate the parking and office spaces due to security concerns. The building will house space for Emergency Medical Services, the Honolulu Police Department, the state DOT and the Department of Emergency Management, which is currently in the basement of the Frank Fasi Municipal Building.

The building’s first phase, with an undetermined start date, will include city transportation services, fire and emergency officials.

The second phase will move the city’s Department of Emergency Management out of the Fasi building and incorporate the Police Department’s Traffic Division.


"With the parking separate from the building, it added a lot to reduce the complexity of security, and it has simplified the design considerably," Yoshioka said.

The contract for the parking garage has been awarded to Hawaiian Dredging. Anbe, Aruga & Ishizu, Architects Inc. has been selected for the building’s design.

Today’s groundbreaking will also mark the beginning of work on an improved Alapai Transit Center, in accordance with the city’s bicycle master plan. The existing transit center will be moved further inland to make way for a multiuse bicycle path between Alapai and Kealamakai streets.

The transit center move costs about $5 million, about half coming from federal highway funding.

The area where the traffic center will be built used to be the bus barn for Honolulu Rapid Transit during the 1950s, then owned by the late Harry Weinberg.

When former Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi started a public transit system, the city bought the Alapai lot from Weinberg through federal funding.

"When that was no longer used, the bus barn was torn down, revealing this big open area," Yoshioka said. "At that time we acquired the property using federal funds."

Yoshioka said a stipulation to obtaining the funding requires the city to use the property for only transportation purposes.

The city will be seeking federal funding for the rest of the project, he said.

"It’s clear that the time has arrived for this project," Yoshioka said. "Our traffic management system right now works very well, but when we go to the JTMC, we’ll have the advantage of having the other first responders there with us."


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