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Sunday, June 23, 2024 82° Today's Paper

Officials warn of more traffic during Honolulu rail work

For years to come in Iwilei and Kalihi, expect traffic to snarl more than usual and construction noise day and night as the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and its contractor work to relocate utility infrastructure above and below two major thoroughfares in the build-out of the city’s nearly $10 billion rail system.

At a virtual and in-person community meeting Thursday, contractor Nan Inc. laid out work and traffic plans along Dillingham Boulevard and Kamehameha Highway, which include having only one lane for traffic in each direction, Ewa to town — 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the next three years.

HART in 2022 awarded Nan a $496 million contract to do utility relocation work as the rail line advances toward downtown Honolulu. The work — dubbed the “Mauka Shift” — would see one of two 138-kilovolt electrical transmission lines put underground, supposedly saving the rail project time and money.

“The main objective of the Dillingham utilities relocation project is to relocate wet and dry utilities along Kamehameha Highway and Dillingham Boulevard, which will allow more efficient installation of the rail guideway and stations in the future,” said Nan’s Gabby Camacho at the meeting. “We broke ground on the project Dec. 5, with an estimate to finish in the first quarter of 2026,” said Camacho, whose job responsibility is public involvement.

For motorists this means left turns from Kamehameha Highway and Dillingham Boulevard, and from Middle and Kaaahi streets, will be restricted; as well as left turns from businesses or residential driveways onto Kamehameha Highway and Dillingham Boulevard, according to the contractor. Alakawa Street is the only exception, where left turns will be allowed off Dillingham Boulevard.

Likewise, through lanes and turn lanes along cross streets at the intersections of Kamehameha Highway and Dillingham Boulevard may be closed during the weeknights, Monday through Friday, from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. During nighttime hours, turn lanes and through lanes may be closed at Puuhale Road and Laumaka, Mokauea, Kalihi and McNeill streets.

Meanwhile, bus stops will remain open. However, bus stop relocations may become necessary. According to HART, new bus stop locations will be coordinated with TheBus.

Camacho added that the construction work, as planned, will include enlarging telephone manhole covers to allow for better access points; installing an AT&T line from above ground to underground; demolishing utilities; and strengthening the structure of the sewer foundation to improve the sewer line’s performance, among other work.

Camacho said the 24/7 heavy equipment to be used on the project will include bulldozers, excavators and backhoes. “And the louder construction activities and equipment will be reserved for daytime,” she said, adding that these include jackhammers, pavement saws and pavement breakers.

As far as noise levels from this construction go, Camacho said, “nightly noise samples are taken from equipment and utilities to ensure that we stay under the allowable noise limits. However, should you have any concerns, please call the 24/7 hotline at 808-566-2299.”

According to the contractor, the project will maintain access to businesses, residences and driveways during business hours. “We will continue to work with each individual business to make sure that this is so,” Camacho said.

But one area business owner at the noontime meeting, which lasted a little more than 30 minutes, said the utility relocation in front of his bus and van dealership on the mauka side of the 2000 block of Dillingham Boulevard was killing his business.

“I want to know what you guys are going to do,” said Erik Soderholm, vice president of Soderholm Sales and Leasing Inc. “We’re a motor vehicle dealer; we’re not a plate lunch store. What we need is access so we can sell our vans and buses to our customers. And it’s incredibly difficult to get into our lot right now, and so I want to know what you’re going to do.”

“We do understand that you have some concerns about the work, about blocking your property. We are responsible to provide you access to your property,” Mitch Mizokami, Nan’s project manger, replied. “As far as doing work in front of your property, I can’t stop doing work in front of your property. I have a contract to do work in front of your property.”

Mizokami added that Soderholm’s main concerns were with HART and not with his company.

Later, Lori Kahikina, HART executive director and CEO, told Soderholm that she and her staff would meet with him to address his concerns over this project.

For more information about this utilities relocation project, visit honolulutransit.org.

Meanwhile, HART is expected to hold its monthly board of directors meeting at 9 a.m. today at Ali‘i Place, 1099 Alakea St., Suite 150. For further information, contact HART at 808-768-6159.

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