We’re learning more traffic changes may be in store Thursday morning, when he departs for Midway Atoll. Click here for details.
The President of the United States will arrive in Honolulu Wednesday evening, and city officials are warning the public of major road closures during rush hour.
“It’s going to be pretty bad,” warned Assistant Chief Clayton Kau with the Honolulu Police Department.
The White House says on Wednesday, Aug. 31, the president will travel to Honolulu, where he will deliver remarks to leaders from the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress.
The president will remain overnight Wednesday in Honolulu.
City officials say his arrival will trigger closures as he makes his way from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he will be speaking at the East-West Center, then afterward to Windward Oahu, where he will be staying overnight in Kailua.
The closures will begin as early as 4 p.m., and affect all eastbound lanes of the H-1 Freeway and surface streets from the airport area to Manoa. Then, at around 5 or 6 p.m., closures will be initiated in the westbound direction between Manoa and downtown Honolulu, then northbound from downtown to Windward Oahu. It might be 7:30 p.m. or later before the roads are fully back open.
Times are approximate and dependent on the president’s schedule. “It’s just an approximation and when the president arrives and when he gets to his motorcade and gets into his car and starts moving,” Kau stressed.
Police won’t outline specific routes, but drivers should expect significant delays.
“If it’s at all possible, we encourage people to avoid the area between the airport and UH Manoa, especially in the late afternoon. If you have the flexibility to leave work early or to simply avoid being there in the late afternoon, we would really encourage that,” said Department of Transportation Services acting director Mark Garrity. “What DTS is going to do is we’re going to have all of our traffic cameras turned on, being monitored, we’re going to make adjustments to signal timing in major arterials to ease traffic flow, but we do expect major impacts to traffic. We want to apologize in advance and appreciate people’s patience.”
Police say roads will be reopened progressively as the motorcade passes, and police and Secret Service give the all-clear.
Cancellations in anticipation of heavy traffic, road closures on Wednesday, Aug. 31
- Chaminade University: Evening classes on the military bases and evening classes on campus (graduate & undergraduate) are canceled
- All OIA girls’ volleyball matches are postponed and will be rescheduled (Kaimuki vs Kailua, Kalani vs Farrington, Kalaheo vs McKinley, Castle vs Anuenue, Moanalua vs Roosevelt, Kaiser vs Kahuku)
- Saint Francis School will release students at 2:15 p.m.
The uncertainty of what will be closed and when has caused some businesses to plan ahead and let customers know what’s coming.
“Our dispatch has been given notice that they need to tell the consumer that there could be delays up to 30 minutes or an hour,” said Howard Higa, president of The Cab.
A representative from TheBus says there won’t be any changes in the schedule, but urges people to plan ahead, because people who ride the bus will be stuck in the same traffic as everyone else.
On Thursday, Sept. 1, the White House says he will travel to Midway Atoll to mark the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
He will then return and remain overnight in Honolulu, then leave for China on Friday. Police say those movements will be during non-rush-hour traffic.
Many other dignitaries will also be flying in. The conference is known to have a lot of protesters, meaning there’s a heightened need for security.
“That’s going to take a long time for him to get in there,” said business owner Sylvia Thompson. “You know how it is, all the Secret Service in the front and the back.”
“I basically try to deal with it,” said Chuck Davis, who lives in the area. “I always can figure out something. Okay, I’ll go through the back way or I’ll just park over here and walk home.”
The U.S. Coast Guard also issued a notice to mariners detailing VIP security zones — one in Kailua and one at the airport.
A security zone will be in effect around all waters surrounding the Honolulu International Airport at intermittent times on Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
A security zone in Kailua will be in effect Aug. 30-Sept. 2, and includes all waters in Kailua Bay, from Kapoho Point to Kailuana Loop, and the adjacent channel. An orange marker will be placed in the canal to indicate the perimeter of the security zone.
Residents in the neighborhood haven’t been told specifically that the president will stay there while in town, but they suspect he’s coming.
Doug Miller has lived in Kailua all his life, and in his home along the Kawainui Canal for the last five years.
When he was handed a flyer telling him about a security zone being set up for a high-ranking official, he already had an idea of what it meant.
“That’s how they have it written on the flyer that the government put out, but we’re quite sure it’s going to be President Obama,” he said.
Diane Becker walks her dog down the same street where the Secret Service sets up their post during presidential visits.
“There are two checkpoints, one right off the main street and as soon as the agents know you, they just wave you through, so it’s never been a problem,” she said.
A temporary dock has already been set up on the canal where the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, along with Secret Service, will set up shop next week.
Miller, who worked with the Honolulu Police Department for over 20 years and was assigned to the SWAT unit, says his home is right across from a Secret Service checkpoint.
One year, he even took a picture with the commander in chief, and says the agents have even stopped by to take pictures with his pet tortoises.
“Secret Service really has a lot of fun with them,” he said. “They’ll actually get out and take their cell phones out and take pictures. In fact, at Christmas time, we’ll even put ribbons on them.”
Overall, he says the Secret Service is professional and courteous to his family and their neighbors.
“They have a tough job to do but they do it very well,” Miller said.
The conference will also affect McKinley High School. Students will not have school on Sept. 1, the opening day of the conference.
“You know, (the students are) heartbroken,” joked principal Ron Okamura.
Okamura explained that the attorney general’s office called a few months ago, asking to park emergency equipment and vehicles on campus for the first day of the conference.
The campus is located directly next to the Blaisdell.
“The enormity of this event took a little more serious note than other events at the Blaisdell,” said Okamura. “We took a step back. We thought, what is the impact here as far as daily operations are concerned? It might not be the best place for our students to be during the day because of the activities going around.”
Okamura decided to cancel the school day, especially after factoring in the heightened security measures.
“I didn’t want them to be in harm’s way, in the sense that they could be someplace that they could get injured. That was one of the considerations for me to get my students off campus that day. And then (people said) well, what about the adults? I said yeah, they’re kind of important too,” he said. “We were going to do an off-campus professional development offsite, but when we couldn’t work it out, we decided to close school, get everybody off campus, just to be safe.”
A spokesperson at the Department of Education said in a statement: “The teachers will be off that day and are not scheduled for professional development. They will be paid.”
We reached out to the Hawaii State Teachers Association, and learned that “about 110 teachers there are doing self-directed professional development off-site.”
Okamura says the canceled school day does not need to be made up at the end of the school year.