Loss of access turn at Kewalo traffic island angers businesses
By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Transportation Writer
A recently built traffic island along Ala Moana Boulevard has angered several Kewalo Basin fish charter boats and ocean recreation companies across the street, saying it has hurt business by restricting access to them.
Owners of the area businesses say they want their old left-turn access back, but the state agency in charge of the project said the traffic change is permanent.
The traffic island fronting Ward Warehouse was installed last month as part of a project to redevelop Kaka'ako. But it took away a left-turn lane and traffic signal that had allowed drivers coming from Waikiki to enter the area of about 20 fish charter boats, water recreation and tour businesses across Ala Moana Boulevard.
Dian Greene, an employee at Magic! Sportfishing said the traffic change has forced customers to keep driving down busy Ala Moana Boulevard and make a U-turn about three blocks away to head back to the Kewalo Basin business area.
"Our business has been cut in half," said Greene, who books tourists for many of the fishing charter boats. "I see the rental cars driving by along the other side of the road and they don't come back."
Mike DeRego, captain and owner of Maggie Joe Sportfishing, said many of his tourist clients are unfamiliar with the area and have gotten lost since the traffic pattern change.
"Especially for the first boat charter at dawn," DeRego said. "People are showing up late and missing their boats because of the extra time to find us. We depend on a lot of tourist/first-time customers that are driving by looking for something like this, and they can't get here."
Jan Yokota, executive director of Hawai'i Community Development Authority in charge of redeveloping the Kaka'ako area, said the work was done to make way for a realigned intersection at Ala Moana Boulevard, Kamakee Street and the entrance to Ala Moana Beach Park.
"The streets of Kamakee and Ala Moana Park Road were separate intersections along Ala Moana Boulevard; they didn't match up before," Yokota said.
"To accommodate traffic at the intersection, we had to create a stacking left-turn lane for drivers heading in the opposite direction towards Waikiki.
"So we had to close the left-hand turn coming from Waikiki in order to make room for the new intersection," she said.
The realigned intersection reopened for traffic on Friday.
Yokota said construction signs were posted and public notices published in the newspapers informing people about the closure of the left-turn lane before construction began.
But Greene and others across the street said the state forgot to notify them.
"It was a total surprise for us," said Barnaby Beech, a driver at Hawaiian Parasail. "One day, they just decided to build the island and take away the left-turn lane. No one asked us how we would be affected."
Yokota said her agency will meet with the fish boat charter businesses to discuss traffic alternatives, including a left-turn access to Kewalo Basin just past Ward Avenue. She said they will discuss the merchants' requests for signs directing customers to Kewalo Basin.