State outlines solutions, tips to ease town-bound gridlock during Nanakuli contraflow

A contraflow project that launched in West Oahu Wednesday to help evening traffic ended up doing the exact opposite for some, causing major backup.

Drivers headed in the town-bound direction on Farrington Highway were funneled into a single lane.

To make matters worse, many were attempting to make illegal left turns, creating even more backup for drivers behind them.

State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro said her commute from Waianae to Nanakuli is typically 15 minutes in the evening, but on Wednesday, it took nearly an hour.

“It was bad, you know, the traffic, it was very, very slow, very backed up leaving Waianae,” she said.

However, she added, “despite the difficulty of leaving Waianae yesterday, I really think overall its a good thing because for those coming home, on the westbound side, because that’s the bulk of traffic in the afternoon, people coming back to Waianae, for those people it really did help.”

The state Department of Transportation says drivers were making illegal left turns on Helelua Street, Haleakala and Nanakuli avenues, which created a backup because they were trying to cross three lanes or use Kalanianaole Beach Park to make a turn.

“Instead, go just one short block further west, town-bound, to Laumania, Pohakunui, Piliokahi, and do a circle to turn around instead of making left turn,” explained DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara. “Just make a circle, come back around, then make right on whichever street they want to go on.”

The state says no police officers signed up for special duty on Wednesday, but officials do plan to have the people who set up the contraflow cones stay in place and use flags to assist with traffic.

The DOT also told us it may change the location of where the merge happens to help ease the congestion, but that could happen next week.

Some residents aren’t convinced the new contraflow will work.

“It doesn’t feel like the state has an answer for us out here,” said Makaha resident John Hayworth. “If I could, l would definitely try to commute at a different time. Right now I’m riding a moped because it’s a lot easier to get around on that and obviously gas-wise it’s a big effect to sit in traffic for an hour and have to fill up before you even get out of Nanakuli.”

The state says it is planning to create a fifth lane or turn lanes at some Nanakuli intersections that should be ready next summer, and officials don’t anticipate the need for the contraflow when that work is done.

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