More rail transit traffic woes in store for Oahu drivers

It’ll be years before rail transit is up and running in Honolulu, but some are already fed up with the headaches of the rail construction project.

For months, residents and motorists passing through Pearl City have had to deal with road closures along Kamehameha Hwy. Lanes in both directions have been closed while crews do preliminary work on what will be the future rail route.

Some say it’ll be worth it in the end while others are having a problem dealing with the congestion.

“We can’t stay in the past,” said resident Chris McKinney. “It may stink now, and may be for five or six years, but what better way than to have to have a rail system.”

“Where’s the Aloha spirit?” said resident Jane Bailon. “I can’t really blame them. Who wants to fight the traffic congestion everyday? Nobody.”

Lane closures along stretches of Kamehameha Hwy. through the Pearl City-Aiea corridor are planned through Thursday so the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation can protect the safety of its work crews. Much of the preliminary construction for the rail project involves relocation of utility lines, but there is also testing being done along the 20-mile route to make sure the soil can hold the giant columns that will be going up.

“We build dummy or test columns into the ground to check for soil conditions,” said HART spokesman Scott Ishikawa. “We have to see how deep the foundations will have to go and this will help us later when we have to do the actual work starting at the end of the year.”

Now, KHON2 has learned that what’s happening in Pearl City will at some point down the road be coming to town.

The lawsuits in federal court had held up construction heading into the city center, but now with the recent court rulings giving the project the green light, contractors are looking forward to more work. But Ishikawa says the work will be tricky as it comes down Dillingham Blvd.

“We’re going to have to widen Dillingham slightly,” he said. “We have to push out the lanes and right down the middle is where you’re going to have the columns, right down the boulevard.” Ishikawa went on to say that “the contract to build the guideway into town area should be awarded later this year and we should start work beginning next year.”

Ishikawa says he realizes that people are more frustrated when they don’t know why they are stuck in traffic, so HART is working to make sure drivers know in advance what to expect so they can make adjustments to their commute or take detours.

He said HART expects to reopen Old Farrington Highway in Ewa in April, and work to install the support columns along Farrington Hwy. right through the middle of Waipahu should begin this spring.

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