Traffic changes at state’s largest elementary school aim to keep students safe

A traffic change is in effect in front of the state’s largest elementary school, and if it works, we could see it at other campuses across Oahu.

There are 1,240 students enrolled at August Ahrens Elementary School in Waipahu.

With so many students being dropped off and picked up, there have been quite a few close calls with kids almost getting hit by cars.

Residents describe traffic during peak school hours as a nightmare.

“You cannot move. You cannot move your car,” said Romeo Caoili, who lives on Hapapa Street.

“They are really stagnant, stopped for 15 to 30 minutes waiting for the time,” added Jun Lagon, who lives on Mahoe Street.

“At the end of the day when you have a large school population and number of cars going in at one time, it does cause congestion,” said Honolulu City Councilman Brandon Elefante.

The school has two designated pick-up and drop-off sections, but the problem is occurring on Mahoe Street near campus. Parents end up parking there, and many double-park as they wait for their kids, causing traffic gridlock.

“The (school) buses, they cannot move. They’re stuck over there in the traffic,” said Caoili.

“If you don’t have all those patience in the world, oh my, it’s so bad,” said Lagon.

Elefante says the school asked him to do something about the traffic.

“The number one issue is safety, especially for students in that area,” Elefante said.

After a year of planning, the city recently extended an existing no-parking zone along Mahoe Street to help traffic flow, just in time for the start of the new school year.

“What used to happen before is vehicles parked where the bus stop is and along the road leading up to the entrance. That causes visual sight lines for students and people that don’t see cars as they come out of the driveway, and it caused double parking as parents were waiting for pick up and drop off,” explained Elefante. “That’s a concern, especially on a city street. We want to make sure there’s flow in the area.”

The change on Mahoe Street restricts anyone from parking in front of the school during weekdays, from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Elefante says he looks forward to seeing how this will affect traffic once school picks back up next week.

If the new change works out well, he says it could be a blueprint for other schools with the same traffic issues.

“I encourage anyone to reach out to their elected officials or school administration to come up with solutions. In this case, the administration at August Ahrens worked with various officials, the Honolulu Fire Department, the city’s Department of Transportation Services, and in collaboration with national experts,” said Elefante.

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