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."