Central O'ahu road plan back on track
By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer
PEARL CITY A $50 million state project designed to help alleviate the afternoon rush-hour commute to Central and Leeward O'ahu is back on track, rescued from what was thought to be a two-year delay but could have been a much more serious setback.
That would have meant a delay in construction from September to mid-2004. But now the project is poised to move ahead next spring after the state transportation director moved $2.5 million from the state highways special fund.
"The DOT director tapped into the fund because the matching federal funds were in danger of lapsing," DOT spokeswoman Marilyn Kali said.
And that could have jeopardized the project, or at least set it back a couple of years.
Department of Transportation director Brian Minaai has said the state already had committed $5 million in 2000 to the H-1 project, with matching federal money of $20 million. The department needed $2.5 million more to match about $22.5 million in federal dollars to pay for the rest of the project.
So Minaai tapped the state highways special fund, intended for use in building and maintaining state highways. Money for the fund comes from the state gas tax, vehicle weight tax and other sources.
The work is among the agency's key O'ahu projects.
The project will widen 1.25 miles of the freeway viaduct in the 'ewa-bound direction from five lanes to six from the Kaonohi Overpass to the Pearl City/Waimalu off-ramp and relieve one of the island's worst traffic bottlenecks. Approximately 108,000 vehicles from the H-1 and Moanalua freeways travel and merge in that corridor each day.
Kali said the widening project will go out to bid before the end of the year, with work to begin in the spring.
Construction will take about 18 months and may require closing up to two H-1 'ewa-bound lanes during the work, Kali said. The project will continue the widening of H-1 to six lanes done in 1998 from the Halawa Heights Road Overpass to Kaonohi Street Overpass.
While the 1998 construction caused headaches for motorists, state Senate Transportation Committee chairman Cal Kawamoto, D-19th (Waipahu, Pearl City) said the project did help traffic by moving the bottleneck forward.
"Once we widen the H-1 to the Pearl City/Waimalu exit, I think we'll be able to see the difference," Kawamoto said. "It moved the bottleneck, but drivers in the six lanes still have to merge back into five."
Kali said the DOT is planning a meeting late this month to update residents on the project.
Seven of 10 affected Waimalu households below the freeway have been moved. Nineteen more households will be moved temporarily before construction begins.