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APEC conferees will see greener Nimitz Highway

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The leaders of 21 Asia- Pacific economies will be greeted by more than a mile of palm trees and two acres of new grass along Nim­itz Highway when their motorcades drive from Hono­lulu Airport to November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Waikiki, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz said yesterday.

With 80 percent of tourists taking the Nim­itz Highway route to Waikiki, Schatz said, "first impressions are everything. … It’s very important to Kalihi, it’s important to Hono­lulu, it’s important to the state of Hawaii to have a Nim­itz Highway we can be proud of."

The project will plant 116 coconut palms, 89 Fiji fan palms and two acres of St. Augustine grass along a 1.4-mile stretch between Sand Island Access Road and Ala­kawa Street, said Dan Meisenzahl, spokes­man for the state Department of Transportation.

"As everyone who has driven down Nim­itz Highway knows, there are portions of Nim­itz Highway that don’t look like Hawaii — you can be anywhere on the continent," Meisenzahl said. "We want to make that first great impression that you’re in Hawaii. We really think this proj­ect will help with that first impression."

The $1.2 million proj­ect is currently out to bid and would begin in June. It is scheduled to be finished by Oct. 15, just before the start of the APEC conference, Meisenzahl said.

The work calls for new St. Augustine grass that is commonly found in Kapiolani Park, a new irrigation system and a mix of palm trees that will line the median of Nim­itz Highway, said Chris Dacus, the DOT’s landscape architect for highways.

Nearly half of the palm trees — 89 Fiji fan palms — will be relocated from the city’s rail construction proj­ect currently under way along Farrington Highway, Dacus said.

The other 116 coconut palms will likely have to be shipped in from the neighbor islands because of a coconut palm shortage on Oahu, Dacus said.

A separate project will bury overhead utility lines along Nim­itz Highway from downtown to Waikiki.

"Every project that we’re undertaking is important for its own reasons," Schatz said. "We think it’s important that Nim­itz Highway is beautiful both for our visitors and for our residents. … As people leave the airport and they move into Waikiki, they’ll immediately feel like they’re in Hawaii."

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