Wai'anae bypass nears reality
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Leeward O'ahu Writer
The spontaneous high point of Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris' State of the City address on Jan. 29 came when the mayor announced the city would build an emergency access road along the Wai'anae Coast and the crowd went wild with sustained cheers and applause.
"If they say they're going to do it I think we have to believe them," said Wai'anae merchant Gary Char, owner of Westside Tackle and Sports Shop. "Everyone's happy about this as far as I know. We won't have to wait six hours to get in and out of Wai'anae every time Farrington shuts down."
Cheryl Soon, director of the Department of Transportation Services, swears the work on the first phase of the two-year project will begin in three months or less and could be done by the end of the year.
"The bids are all in and the contracts all awarded," said Soon. "At this point, there are no more hurdles."
All that remains is sitting down with the contractors and working out a construction schedule and timetable, said Soon.
One reason it has taken so long to get started has been the process of negotiating dozens of easement agreements with landowners over whose property the emergency road will run, or buying sections of land outright through the eminent domain process, said Soon.
"That's what we've been working on," she said. "It's pretty complex, actually.
"Some owners, for tax reasons, prefer to have the land taken by eminent domain. Others are happy to negotiate. Everyone's circumstance is different. There's no hard feelings one way or the other on our side."
More than $8 million has been appropriated to build the unusual alternative to the often-clogged Farrington Highway.
City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi is chairwoman of the council's budget committee, which recently added $3.35 million to the $5 million already earmarked for the work.
"We want to make sure that they have a bypass road," said Kobayashi. "The mayor had put in money for improvements to Kalakaua Avenue. And because they had already spent over $50 million on Kalakaua, the budget committee felt that Wai'anae needed a bypass road. So we moved the money from Waikiki to Wai'anae."
Under no circumstances will traffic be able to move with any speed along the emergency access road, Soon emphasized.
"You're not going to be able to build a road with the capacity of Farrington and put it onto a two-lane back road. But, it's something, instead of not moving at all."
When completed, the bypass will be a patchwork of widened and linked existing back roads, and, where no roads exist, paved slivers of new road. The whole thing will meander from Nanakuli to Makaha. Parts of the road will be open permanently; other sections will be gated and only opened during emergencies.
"The problem that remains is the emergency access portion that goes through the Nanakuli section is in an area where residents are understandably not interested in having the thing open at all times," said state Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, D-45th (Wai'anae, Makaha)."And that's where the bottleneck is most times during rush hour.
"But the good news is that there's going to be an access road. For the day-to-day grind, though, that problem is not going to be solved."
Correction: The legend was incorrect in a previous version of the map with this story.