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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Bush visit to slow traffic; regular flights will go on

 •  Staff picks volunteer to meet Bush

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer

President Bush's visit to O'ahu tomorrow is likely to cause some inconvenience for motorists.

A Honolulu Police bike officer stops traffic at the School Street on-ramp to the H-1 freeway as the westbound lanes are cleared of all but official traffic in a "dry run" for tomorrow's presidential motorcade.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

City and state officials yesterday said they had been told not to divulge any details of the presidential movements during his daylong stay.

Today, Federal Aviation Administration officials said regularly scheduled flights by commuter airlines could go on as planned. This rescinded an advisory given yesterday to Pacific Wings and Island Air officials that their flights from rural airports such as those on Moloka'i, Lana'i and the Big Island would have to be canceled.

FAA officials initially were worried that the flights would originate in unsecured airports, said Greg Kahlstorf, president of Pacific Wings.

Even so, there were indications that regular traffic could be affected throughout the day. On the ground yesterday, police briefly closed segments of the H-1 in what they called a dry run for a presidential motorcade, and said drivers should be aware that similar closures could occur tomorrow.

"We really can't say anything about it, but motorists should be aware that the freeways and other roads may be shut down while the president is traveling," said Michelle Yu, a Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman. "All we can do is ask motorists to be aware and patient."

Although details of the president's schedule were kept secret, plans that were released pointed to three possible trouble spots:

  • Around Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base during the morning hours. Bush and his wife are expected to visit several sites on the military bases and an elementary school in the area after their 8 a.m. arrival. They'll then travel by motorcade to the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
  • Waikiki in the early evening. Bush is expected to travel by motorcade to attend a Republican fund-raising event at the Hilton Hawaiian Village hotel. Details of the route were not released.
  • After the reception, the president and his wife will depart for Hickam and their flight home, presumably along the H-1 route that police practiced yesterday.

Although officials were tight-lipped about the president's movements, similar visits in the past offer clues about what to expect.

When Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited Honolulu last year, police locked down roads in the direction the motorcade was traveling, with HPD motorcycle officers leapfrogging from one intersection or on-ramp to the next.

"And we didn't lock down overpasses, which we would have done for the president of the United States," Maj. Robert Prasser, then head of HPD's traffic division, said at the time.

When President Bill Clinton visited Hawai'i in 1995, however, crowds lined every overpass and ramp along the H-1 Freeway, standing on cars and guardrails trying to catch a glimpse of the president.

When Clinton returned to the Islands for three days in 1996, he planned to do much of his traveling by helicopter. Those plans changed, however, when heavy rain made it more prudent to drive in a motorcade that included 21 cars, an ambulance and six police motorcycles.

Even when he flew by helicopter, the presidential-less motorcade slowed traffic as it moved from one location to another.

Advertiser staff writer Mike Gordon contributed to this report. Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.