Councilman proposes removing decades-old contraflow on Kapiolani Boulevard

A decades-old contraflow on Kapiolani Boulevard could be on the chopping block.

A Honolulu city councilman is proposing to get rid of it to make it easier for people to get in and out of Waikiki.

But a recent traffic study goes against this idea.

Last year councilman Trevor Ozawa asked the city to conduct a traffic study on Kapiolani Boulevard.

A bill has been filed to remove the extra lane during the afternoon hours, but according to the study doing so will only make traffic worse.

The Kapiolani contraflow traffic plan has been in use, morning and afternoon, since 1952.

During the afternoon rush, an additional lane is opened up heading eastbound on Kapiolani which restricts left turns.

But Ozawa says the contraflow is outdated and needs to go.

“We had so many fewer businesses, so many fewer condominiums and hotels in waikiki, so it’s been a tremendous change in the last 65 years of the growth makai of Kapiolani Boulevard,” Ozawa explains.

Ozawa introduced a measure to allow left hand turns at the intersections of Kapiolani and Atkinson and Kapiolani and McCully.

Since left turns are restricted in the afternoon, Ozawa says drivers spend more time trying to get to their destination.

“It’s been a nuisance for people that live and work in the area to get to Waikiki and Ala Moana especially when they have to do it day in and day out,” Ozawa said. “What they’re doing is clogging a lot of our side streets in which a lot of our residents live in these older neighborhoods.”

The city Department of Transportation Services conducted a traffic study and the results say removing the contraflow would actually increase traffic congestion by 40 to 70 percent.

If left turns are allowed, the city says drivers only have one through lane since the right hand lane tends to be slowed down by buses and right hand turns.

The study also says additional drive times to get to Waikiki and Ala Moana are minimal.

Ozawa disagrees, saying the study is inadequate. He also says the Transit Oriented Development plan for this area doesn’t include a contraflow lane.

“That’s the driving policy document for this area, so inevitably it’s gonna be taken away at some point. So we might as well do it now,” Ozawa said.

The next step would be a public hearing.

Ozawa says he’d like to at least see a pilot program that removes the contraflow in the afternoon.

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