Stretch of H-1 is nation's 2nd-worst
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer
A national 2009 study has ranked Honolulu's H-1 east-bound freeway between South Vineyard Boulevard and Ward Avenue as the second worst in the nation when it comes to travel time at peak hours.
It was No. 1 in 2008, but lost that distinction to Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana.
The National Traffic Scorecard study by INRIX, a leading provider of traffic information nationwide, covers the first half of 2009. It also said that H-1 — or Lunalilo Freeway — is the 38th most congested roadway across the United States. But when you combine all the factors, that stretch of freeway ranks 43rd in the nation for the first part of last year.
Honolulu residents don't need a study to know the problems on that stretch of road.
"It's been like that for a long time," said Scotty Anderson, who commutes from Wai'alae to Kalihi every day. "I've stopped using that freeway to go home. I absolutely avoid it, especially when school is in session."
The problem, said Anderson, chairman of the Wai'alae-Kähala Neighborhood Board, is the on-ramps and off-ramps that sometimes force traffic to come to a complete stop when drivers want to move on or off the freeway.
Once drivers make it past Punahou Street, the problem is gone, he said.
The state Department of Transportation is well aware of the problem, said Tammy Mori, DOT spokeswoman.
Traffic congestion affects the economy and quality of life and that's why the DOT is aggressively pursuing the Middle Street Merge Widening Project, an afternoon contraflow project on H-1 and education programs that stress ridesharing, taking the bus, walking and bicycle riding, Mori said.
The DOT's $4.2 billion Highway Modernization Plan awaiting approval from the state Legislature will go a long way in relieving problems, she said. The plan would be funded by increases in fuel taxes, and vehicle rental surcharge and registration.
"But these wouldn't take effect until the economy rebounds," Mori said. "There would have to be a 1 percent job growth for two consecutive quarters."
The state has initiated some changes on H-1 to improve traffic flow in the Makiki area for east-bound traffic and Robert Chuck said he appreciates the effort.
Closing the on-ramps in Makiki has improved west-bound traffic all the way to 'Äina Haina where he lives, said Chuck, chairman of the Kuli'ou'ou-Kalani Iki Neighborhood Board.
"Now because of the budget cuts I hope they don't pull back," he said.
INRIX calculates traffic congestion based on real-time traffic speeds obtained from GPS networks, including more than 1.5 million vehicles and mobile devices traveling the nation's roads, said Jim Bak, with INRIX.
While the data are used to help people get around the country, it also is somewhat of an economic indicator, Bak said.
As the economy tanked, fewer automobiles were on the road, indicating fewer people going to work and making fewer deliveries of products, he said.
Since 2008 until last August, congestion throughout the nation has declined — possibly because of fuel prices, the economy and people traveling less, Bak said.
"Now we're starting to see, as the economy starts slowly to recover, things are starting to pick up again," he said.