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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2001

Big project to clog King Street

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Transportation Writer

At a time when it seems nearly every major street and highway in Honolulu is under repair, the city is about to start a huge project that will snarl King Street through the heart of downtown for a year.

The $4.5-million project will resurface King Street from Liliha Street to River Street in Chinatown and from Bethel Street to South Street through downtown.

Concrete will be poured in the far right lanes of King Street to handle buses and other heavy vehicles.

At the same time, the Board of Water Supply will spend $2.4 million to replace a 24-inch water main along King Street from Liliha Street to River Street.

The road contract has been awarded to Royal Contracting Co.

The city is expected to announce the project this week with work to begin July 2.

King Street is one of the the city's busiest thoroughfares. However, city officials say they can keep traffic moving with no major detours.

"We're going to monitor the situation and make changes to traffic routes when necessary," said city managing director Ben Lee.

Along with repaving, work will include construction of 59 wheelchair ramps at intersections along King Street to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The city this month was taken back to federal court for falling behind in making sidewalks and streets accessible to wheelchair users.

Lee said construction work is tentatively scheduled to run weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and weeknights from 7:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.

"We're going to try to work around rush-hour traffic," said Lee, who acknowledged construction will affect traffic flow. "We wanted to coordinate the work with the Board of Water Supply to get all the projects done at one time."

The work will likely back up traffic on Beretania Street, Kapi'olani Boulevard and other main routes used by commuters going to work downtown or trying to avoid freeway congestion.

The water main installation between Liliha and River streets will begin in late July or early August and last eight to nine months.

"We want to get that portion out of the way, so we can get to work on the resurfacing and concrete work," said Leonard Leong, vice president of Royal Contracting Co.

Laying concrete for the right-hand bus lanes will be time-consuming because the asphalt needs to be dug out and replaced with fresh concrete.

Concrete, although more expensive than asphalt, is being used because it can better withstand heavier vehicles.

Leong said crews will probably rebuild the concrete lane block by block, with one or two traffic lanes closed during work.

"What we're looking at is starting excavation on a Monday, pouring the concrete by a Friday, then reopening the lane by the next Monday," Leong said. "Bus stops will be relocated as we work from block to block."

The new concrete lanes along both ends of King Street for buses will be connected through Chinatown via Hotel Street, Lee said.

Asphalt resurfacing of the other King Street lanes will probably be done at night, Leong said. Any noisy work, including chipping and scrapping of road surfaces will be done during the day, Lee said.

Bill Ocariza, who along with wife, Tess, runs the Filmart store along King Street just past Chinatown, believes the work will hurt his business.

It was only about a year ago that the city finished street improvements throughout Chinatown, a process that angered merchants and frustrated commuters.

"The last time they did road maintenance, they moved the bus stops, and we lost many of our customers who are bus riders," Ocariza said. "Maybe we should ask the city to pay some of our rent during construction."

Lee, who is in his 16th year with the city, said he can't remember a road construction project of this magnitude in downtown Honolulu.

"The toughest project we had was the restoration along the Kuhio Beach area when we had to remove one lane for construction," Lee said. "But I think we got through that well."

One consolation is King Street traffic heads in only one direction along the construction route, making it easier to create detours.

"When it's a two-way street with a lot of turn movements, that's where you're really going to run into problems," Lee said.

Leong said the company is considering working on weekends. A hotline will be set up for construction updates, he said.

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Scott Ishikawa covers transportation issues. His e-mail address is sishikawa@honoluluadvertiser.com.