A heavily used on-ramp is about to close for two weeks, but could it be shut down for good?
From April 17-29, the Piikoi Street on-ramp to the H-1 Freeway eastbound will be closed 24 hours a day.
Drivers will still be able to get on the freeway via the Ward Avenue and University Avenue on-ramps.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation says the closure is necessary, not only to conduct maintenance work to the on-ramp — such as trimming the bushes and fixing potholes — but also to study the traffic impacts of the ramp’s closure.
“The Punahou Street off-ramp and Piikoi Street on-ramp has been an area of concern in terms of congestion. With the scheduled maintenance work, it is an ideal opportunity to see how traffic is impacted from the on-ramp closure,” said Ed Sniffen, Hawaii Department of Transportation, Highways Division Deputy Director. “HDOT is constantly looking for new ways to improve the highways system and this could be a way to make the freeway more efficient.”
Anyone who’s driven along that stretch during rush hour, and even on Saturdays, is familiar with that congestion. Prior to the Punahou off-ramp, traffic can back up, sometimes to Middle Street. Once you drive past, it usually flows just fine.
That’s because vehicles entering the freeway from the Piikoi Street on-ramp must merge left across two lanes in order to continue on the freeway while vehicles exiting the freeway at the Punahou Street off-ramp are simultaneously merging right. The state says it wants to cut down on what it calls “significant weaving” in this situation.
Officials say traffic movements on the freeway and surrounding streets will be monitored during the closure to determine if it reduces enough freeway congestion to justify a permanent closure and improvements on alternate routes.
With more than 100,000 people heading eastbound on the freeway each day, some drivers we spoke to were uneasy about the change.
“It’s just bad news when they close it during traffic time, because it just backs everybody up and there’s no alternate route,” said driver Michael Tsue.
Tsue says even the alternate routes are “backed up already in the morning.”
Another concern drivers shared was the effect that the two-week closure would have on traffic on streets leading up to the freeway.
In the next two weeks, a traffic counter will be put out to see just how many cars use the eastbound Piikoi on-ramp each day.
HDOT welcomes feedback from the community on the project. Those wishing to comment may email the Public Affairs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 808-587-2160.