It’s that time of the year again — the time when students returning to school result in increased traffic on Oahu’s roadways.
Starting Monday, an estimated 20,000 students are expected to resume classes at the University of Hawaii, with the majority expected to commute to the Manoa campus. Public school students returned to school two weeks ago, along with some private schools last week, while others are expected to start soon.
State officials are urging motorists to plan ahead, using traffic apps, and to drive with care near school zones as part of its “Beat the School Jam” campaign.
“We want to make sure that drivers understand, with kids going back to school, we’re going to see a lot more kids on the road, a lot more pedestrians, a lot more bicyclists,” said Ed Sniffen, state deputy director of highways. “We’re asking everyone, when you’re in an area where you can expect to see pedestrians, to slow down and take your time, especially going into the school zones. … Slow down, be aware, take care of everybody’s kids out there.”
To ease traffic congestion, the state Department of Transportation will suspend construction-related road closures on major state highways from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Aug. 30.
However, emergency closures, nighttime construction and roadwork that does not involve lane closures still may be scheduled.
The annual uptick in traffic congestion historically occurs at the start of the University of Hawaii’s fall semester and, to some extent, when private schools begin, as well.
The impact from public schools, which began two weeks ago, is generally minimal, given that most people attend schools in their neighborhoods, with little effect on the major thoroughfares leading into town. An estimated 16% of students in Hawaii attend private schools, higher than the national average.
Gov. David Ige urged drivers to plan ahead, using traffic apps, such as the state’s GoAkamai app, to choose the best routes. Spending a few seconds checking a traffic app in advance can save a lot of time, he said, and help people choose the best routes or make adjustments.
In addition to GoAkamai, which offers 200 traffic cameras around Oahu and uses a color system to denote where traffic is flowing or stopped, there are other apps, including Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze, that offer alerts on accidents, construction and traffic.
In addition, the state has installed new raised pedestrian crosswalks in three school zones to improve safety in three school zones.
They have been installed on Kalihi Street near Kalakaua Intermediate, Kalihi Kai Elementary and Farrington High schools; on Farrington Highway near Waianae High School and the Makaha Surfside complex; and on Fort Weaver Road near Ilima Intermediate, Pohakea Elementary and James Campbell High schools.
More are planned, according to Sniffen. In addition to increasing the visibility of pedestrians, the raised crosswalks slow down drivers.
“The overall intention is to ensure we elevate the pedestrians, physically and in the mind of drivers,” he said.
The state’s GoAkamai app soon will expand to include roads on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.
The state DOT also is offering a new notification service for scheduled and emergency road closures, which the public can subscribe to at its website, hidot.hawaii.gov. The notifications can be customized by location and are available via email or text.
‘BEAT THE SCHOOL JAM’
State officials advise to prepare ahead of time, slow down near school zones
>> Starting Monday, approximately 20,000 students are expected to return to classes at the University of Hawaii, and travel times are expected to increase.
>> To ease traffic congestion, the state will suspend construction- related road closures on major state highways from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Aug. 30.
>> The state is offering a new notification service for traffic alerts, which can be customized by location, at hidot.hawaii.gov.
>> Students will be walking and biking to school, and drivers should slow down in school zones. To improve safety, the state installed raised crosswalks in three school zones on Kalihi Street, Farrington Highway and Fort Weaver Road.
Source: State Department of Transportation
Check traffic apps, including the state’s GoAkamai app (goakamai.org), before leaving. Roadways on GoAkamai are displayed in green (fast), yellow, red or black (slow) to indicate travel speeds.