New company to manage Oahu’s zipper lane, testing scheduled Saturday

Thousands of drivers rely on the zipperlane every morning during the drive to town Monday through Friday. Now after nearly 20 years, a new company is taking over operations – and that’s causing some concern. The state has award a new company the contract to manage and maintain the zipperlane and zipmobiles. The new company is called Zip U There, and it will take over operations on Monday. It’s the first time a new company has taken over since the zipperlane was built 16 years ago.

Zip U There won the contract after submitting the lowest bid – $1.58 million – beating out Safety Systems and Signs ($1.94 million) who has operated the zipperlane since it was built in 1998. GP Roadway Systems ($1.68 million) also submitted a bid.

The State Department of Transportation’s advisory states that on Saturday, May 10, Zip U There will test the deployment the zipperlane on a short stretch of the H-1 freeway’s left-most west bound lane on the Airport viaduct. The left-most Ewa-bound lane from Nimitz Highway (near Sand Island Access Road) and the Hickam AFB/Naval Base off-ramp (exit 15B), will be closed for the test from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. The zipper lane will not be open to traffic at that time.

That advisory makes no mention of the new operator, and that the new company will take over operations on Monday. That took a couple of key lawmakers who represent Central Oahu communities by surprise.

KHON2 asked whether State Representative Ryan Yamane, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, had a concern upon hearing that the new operator of the zipperlane will be taking over in just a few days.

“Well , whenever there is a change to something that is so vital to Central Oahu and Leeward, we are always concerned,” said Yamane. “I did not know that this was going to begin on Monday.”

Yamane is concerned because of recent history. In January, the zipmobile broke down and the extra lane was not there for the morning commute causing a traffic nightmare.

Yamane is so concerned that he phoned the transportation director who told him he would work to get Yamane to see Saturday’s test with the new company.

The new company that is taking over is not exactly new. The president of Zip U There is Bruce Kagawa, who was with the old company Safety Systems. Kagawa served as supervisor of Safety Systems and Signs, before he formed the new company, Zip U There, in 2012.

Kagawa told KHON2 that he is working to make sure his company is ready when it takes over operations on Monday. He said he has four employees and they are all trained and certified by the zipmobile’s manufacturer.

In a statement read to KHON2 – Senator Michelle Kidani, who represents Waikele, Mililani Town, and Gentry-Waipio, said “I hope the department of transportation has done its homework to ensure this change will not impact the safety of motorists and that there will not be any unnecessary delays.”

Kidani went on to say that with all the roadwork on the H-1 Freeway, and the construction of new support columns for the rail project on the freeway, that this might not be a good time to make changes to the operation of the zipperlane.

Yamane also told KHON2 that he did make an inquiry with the State Transportation Department “that if the transition has any problems or negative impacts to the community, can the contract be modified or voided – and my understanding is, yes.”

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