President Donald Trump’s overnight stay in Honolulu today is brief, but his planned meeting with the governors of Hawaii, Alaska and Pacific U.S. territories fits into the theme of his first official visit to Asia — bolstering U.S. defenses and prosperity — which takes place amid ongoing tensions with North Korea.
Trump is stopping in Honolulu en route to Asia, where he is expected to discuss trade and security.
That trip starts Sunday in Tokyo. He’ll also visit South Korea, Beijing and Southeast Asia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ meeting in the Philippines.
Gov. David Ige said he would greet the president and first lady Melania Trump this afternoon with an “aloha.”
“I don’t intend to have a heated issue or political debate on the tarmac,” he said Wednesday. “Whenever any president visits the state of Hawaii, I think it’s an opportunity to learn about the people, place and culture. We all learned a long time ago that when we work together we accomplish great things.”
Hawaii is well versed in hosting presidential and other high-level visits and global events.
President Barack Obama made regular vacation visits to Oahu during his eight years in office. Obama also came here in 2011 for a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which also brought heads of state from APEC’s 21 countries.
He also visited Honolulu last year for the World Conservation Congress, which drew 6,000 leaders and attendees, but Obama didn’t attend the event itself.
This stopover will be no different from the previous high-level events and visits that have put Hawaii on the world stage, while worsening the isle’s already well-known traffic woes.
“We’re obviously going to experience increased interest as a result of his visit. Beyond Waikiki, the fact that he is going to Pearl Harbor calls significant attention to the role that we have played in the U.S. and our continued need for a strong military,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association.
Still, the first couple’s arrival today is expected to cause massive rush-hour delays. They are anticipated to arrive at Joint Base Pearl Harbor- Hickam during the lunchtime rush and then travel the H-1 freeway to Waikiki.
“I can confirm that Gov. Ige will be meeting with the president and four other governors. No other details are available at this time,” said Ige’s spokeswoman Cindy McMillan. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker told reporters Thursday that the meeting is expected to focus on Trump’s trip to Asia and “Pacific theater issues” of concern.
Trump’s entourage also is expected to head west for a meeting with the U.S. Pacific Command and to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. That event is expected to take place after the memorial’s 5 p.m. closure.
“At this time we do not expect President Trump’s visit on Friday to affect other visitors, and we are not planning to close or change operations,” said Dan Brown of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
Then Trump will return to Waikiki, where he is expected to stay overnight before an early morning departure from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
While Trump’s trip is short, snarled motorists aren’t likely to find it sweet. Neither are the many tourists, residents, workers and eventgoers in Waikiki, which gets the bulk of the state’s average daily visitor census — estimated at more than 166,000 during the second quarter by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
It could also disrupt the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, which has events planned for tonight at the Hawai‘i Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa.
Good time for day off
Traffic is expected to be so bad that the city is allowing its 10,000 employees to take vacation Friday to cut down on the congestion.
“Our people can’t stay home but everybody is handling it. We’ve had to deal with something similar with Obama. The main thing is to ensure employees and guests, who are unfamiliar with our roads, are aware of what’s going on,” Hannemann said.
Intermittent road closures are planned from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor, and the Coast Guard will enforce a security zone in the waters off Daniel K. Inouye International Airport today and tomorrow.
Protests will add to the chaos in the state that gave Hilary Clinton her largest margin of victory in the last presidential election. HawaiiJ20+ has planned a protest for 4 to 6 p.m. today at the state Capitol. Tomorrow the group World Can’t Wait will host another protest, slated to begin at 10 a.m. with a march from Ala Moana Park to Thomas Square, where a rally will start at 11 a.m.
Those familiar with heightened security and blocked roads that have accompanied previous presidential visits anticipate the worst.
“I’m returning from a business trip to Kona around the same time the president is arriving,” said Lance Rae, an account supervisor for TLC PR. “I know traffic is going to be bad, so I’ve made plans to do another client meeting from my car on the side of the road. My car’s air conditioning is out, so I’ve already made arrangements to park a rental car at the airport so I’ll have air while I’m working.”
TRAFFIC AND SERVICES AFFECTED
Air Force One is expected to arrive at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam early this afternoon and depart Saturday morning. Here’s a look at how President Donald Trump’s trip to Oahu will affect the public:
>> Motorists are warned to expect road closures, including the H-1 freeway, as the presidential motorcade moves eastbound 2 to 3 p.m. from the Pearl Harbor area to Waikiki; westbound from 4 to 5 p.m. from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor; and eastbound again from 7 to 8 p.m. as the motorcade heads back to Waikiki.
>> The state Department of Transportation will extend Freeway Service Patrol hours to 8 p.m. today to assist any motorists in their service area of the H-1 freeway from Kunia to Ainakoa Avenue, the H-201 Moanalua Freeway and the H-2 freeway from the H-1/H-2 interchange to Ka Uka Boulevard. Motorists needing emergency roadside assistance should call 841-HELP (4357).
>> City officials advise the public to expect heavy traffic and delays during Trump’s visit, especially in the Waikiki area. Road and sidewalk closures on the west end of Waikiki will severely affect pedestrian and vehicle traffic from today to Saturday morning.
>> TheBus and Handi-Van services will be delayed while the presidential motorcade is moving, and some bus stops will be closed in Waikiki.
>> Some pedestrian access will be prohibited in areas designated off-limits by the U.S. Secret Service, including Kuhio Avenue between Kalaimoku and Kaiolu streets; Kalaimoku Street between Kalakaua and Kuhio avenues; and two mauka lanes of Kalakaua Avenue between Kalaimoku Street and Saratoga Road.
>> The Coast Guard and other state and federal agencies will enforce a security zone in the waters off Daniel K. Inouye International Airport today and Saturday. The security zone is in effect from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
Star-Advertiser news services contributed to this story.