Honolulu freeway's Kinau Street off-ramp about to get upgrade
By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer
Work will begin in about two weeks on improvements to one of the city's busiest freeway off-ramps, a project officials say will relieve traffic in the Ward Avenue area and provide better access to emergency medical care.
When the $8.8 million project is completed in about a year, east-bound motorists on H-1 Freeway will be able to make a sharp right turn from the Kīna'u Street off-ramp and head back in the 'ewa direction, linking up with Lusitana Street, which leads to a number of physician office buildings and parking garages on The Queen's Medical Center campus.
State Department of Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said the off-ramp changes will provide more choices for motorists traveling through the area.
"Along with providing motorists an alternate route to the heart of Downtown, it will also offer another route to the state's largest hospital," Morioka said.
In the meantime, drivers and area residents and businesses will have to put up with some inconveniences from the construction work.
While the project is under way, one of the two Kīna'u Street off-ramp lanes likely will be closed much of the time between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., according to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Tammy Mori.
"Yes, there will be some traffic delay or backup during construction," she said. "But once the project is finished, the dedicated right-turn lane should really help improve the flow through the area."
Mori said nighttime construction work was initially considered for the project, but the idea was scrapped after discussions with area residents, many of whom live in mid- and high-rise apartments that line the work site.
Lane closures are scheduled to begin April 26. Police officers will be present during construction hours to help guide traffic through the area.
At least eight parking spots along the mauka side of Kīna'u Street in front of the Royal Kinau apartment building will be lost to make way for the off-ramp project, but no private land was taken, Mori said.
The reduction in on-street parking concerns Shayna FernandezPratt, who lives on the makai side of Kīna'u Street and sometimes parks in front of the Royal Kinau.
"Every time, we get hard time finding parking," FernandezPratt said. "A lot of the Queen's people (employees) park here, too."
Karen Shigano, of Shigalicious Shave Ice and Snack Shop, said her customers are able to park in back of the store on the makai side of Kīna'u Street. She hopes the off-ramp improvements don't create a lot more traffic through the area.
"Lots of drivers are impatient with the cars turning into our driveway," Shigano said. "And when they're impatient, that's when the accidents happen."
The Queen's Medical Center is contributing about $1.8 million to the project's cost. U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye was credited with securing $7 million in federal funds for the work.
Art Ushijima, president of The Queen's Medical Center, said the improvements will provide ambulances an alternative route to the trauma center.
"In a life-or-death situation, every second counts," he said in a news release. "Patients requiring immediate care need quick and ready access to our emergency room. The more routes available, the probability of a good outcome or even survival greatly improves."
Wayne Yoshioka, city transportation director, said the off-ramp improvements will bring much-needed relief to other streets in the area.