North Shore crowds cause traffic jam, bypass under consideration

Large surf continues to roll in on Hawaii’s north- and west-facing shores, attracting huge crowds to the beaches.

A high surf warning is in place through Friday, prompting several beach closures across the state.

But ocean safety officials are urging people to stay away from the shoreline. On Oahu, officials say the waves at Waimea Bay reached 40-foot faces Wednesday.

Lifeguards rescued nine people on the North Shore and more than 30 on Oahu’s west side.

“It takes so much stamina because you can be out surfing for two hours and try to get in and that’s when you get into trouble,” said Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services spokeswoman Shayne Enright.

As always, when there’s high surf, there’s plenty of traffic.

“They’re massive. I had to come and see it for myself,” said Ashley Graham.

“We were off today, so we thought we would come up and see what’s going on,” said Cris Ancog.

With Kamehameha Highway being only two lanes, traffic backs up quickly with large crowds.

KHON2 heard from people who said it took an hour-and-a-half to get to Waimea Bay from Haleiwa.

“I think every year during this time period, we encounter the same problem,” said Honolulu City Council member Ernie Martin. “People want to see the North Shore in its glory and this is peak season right now with high waves.”

“When the waves are on, especially on a weekend, you can spend two or three hours getting up here,” said a North Shore driver.

Those large crowds bring up safety concerns for emergency vehicles who need to use the road.

“We did see a lot of vehicles parked in the roadway, and if you have fire trucks, police cars, ambulances trying to get through along with our lifeguard vehicles, it does make things difficult,” Enright said.

So can something be done? “In the immediate term, no, but I think in the long term there has been discussion into some kind of bypass roads,” said Martin.

KHON2 asked residents if a bypass road would help.

“It would definitely help,” said Kelsey Sanchez.

“If my house was there, I wouldn’t want another road around here, so no,” said Craig Schlottke.

Along with the traffic, there are other issues as well, especially for roads that are very close to the ocean.

“The road is slowly eroding because it’s close to the shoreline, so eventually the road is going to have to be relocated,” said Martin.

As for if and how soon we could see a bypass, Martin said there are lawmakers who are discussing the issue, but there is nothing set in stone yet.

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