Reef highway idea might've, could've, would've ... but won't
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer
Imagine getting on the freeway in Hawai'i Kai, heading into the ocean, then zipping off toward Waikiki on a landscaped, fast-flowing highway built over a series of artificial islands and causeways.
Never happen? Of course not. But it might have ...
Fujio "Fudge" Matsuda, a former state transportation director, remembers it clearly. He once proposed building a reef highway that would stretch from Maunalua Bay to Honolulu Harbor.
Advertiser library rendering
An offshore highway with parks and lagoons alongside it from Maunalua Bay to Honolulu Harbor was proposed in the late 1960s to help alleviate traffic in East Honolulu.
Advertiser library rendering
"I think we could have done it in such a way that would be pleasant, esthetic and recreationally rich," Matsuda said.
Back then, in the late 1960s, Hawai'i residents already knew that they were running out of room for more highways. Congestion was getting worse, but almost every new road-building plan was met with some kind of opposition. Five original routes for H-1 Freeway, all of which were destined to run through downtown Honolulu on elevated bridges, were rejected.
So Matsuda floated the idea of building the highway on the water. What the heck, we have a reef runway; why not a reef roadway, too?
Matsuda's plan would have used thousands of tons of landfill dredged from the construction areas of Hawai'i Kai to build a series of offshore islands stretching all along the east O'ahu waterfront.
Matsuda took his idea to Henry Kaiser, the industrialist behind the development of Hawai'i Kai.
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Information to help you get around O'ahu:
TheBus: For schedules and other information, call 848-5555 or visit www.thebus.org.
Vanpool Hawai'i: 596-8267
Trafficam: Check out traffic conditions at more than 20 major intersections around Honolulu.
The highway would not just have been a long strip of pavement. Instead, the road would have been hidden from land's view by the landscaped islands, where people could stop to picnic, relax or swim in a lagoon that would have been created.
"Basically we would have created a large lake where people could play," Matsuda said. There would have been beaches on both sides of the islands, but no residential or commercial developments.
Kaiser liked the idea and even commissioned well-known watercolorist J.R. Hollingsworth to do a series of paintings showing the community how it would look. Then he and Matsuda started to go public with the idea. What happened is just about what you'd expect would happen if somebody floated a similar idea today.
"We got smashed," Matsuda said. "People were indignant that I'd even suggest such a thing."
Mike Leidemann's Drive Time column appears every Tuesday. Reach him at 525-5460 or email@example.com.