North Shore safety, traffic frustrations continue with solutions overturned, unenforced

The bottleneck on Kamehameha Highway near Laniakea Beach has long been a source of frustration for Oahu’s North Shore residents.

Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, is about halfway between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay.

The community has been asking for a solution for years, and with more and more people visiting the North Shore, the problem only seems to be getting worse.

People often stop to take photos at Laniakea Beach.

“The thing is, there’s a lot of places to view the turtles. That’s just the most advertised,” said Pupukea resident Colin Steinberger.

It’s not uncommon for cars to be backed up three miles, all the way to Haleiwa, especially on the weekends or holidays.

“Sometimes it takes an hour to go three miles, and it’s literally just because of that beach,” Steinberger said. “The thing that slows everyone down is either the backing out and pulling across to try to get back and then the families running across.”

The Hawaii Department of Transportation came up with a short-term solution in 2013 by placing barriers to prevent people from parking across Laniakea Beach.

“We’ve heard overwhelmingly from the community saying they want the barriers. They let us know that the people that live up there, they went from waiting 45 minutes to an hour just to go a mile or two and once the barriers were in, it got reduced to about 10 minutes,” DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara said in August 2015.

A judge ordered the state to remove the barriers in 2015 after “Save The Laniakea Coalition” sued, saying the state didn’t have the proper permits and that the barriers blocked beach access.

After moving the barriers, the state put up numerous signs that read: “No parking, stopping, standing, loading and unloading” to restrict parking 24/7.

Sakahara said after the signs went up: “Drivers who violate the parking restriction risk being cited and/or towed.”

But KHON2 has learned that no one enforces it.

Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Yu told KHON2: “Officers issue few citations in the area.”

She also said: “Twenty-five feet from each side of the center line of Kamehameha Highway is under DOT control.” In other words, it’s state land.

Hawaii Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz told KHON2 that the Sheriff division doesn’t have the staff to enforce parking tickets on the North Shore.

So even though there are no parking signs, no one is giving out tickets, and drivers continue to park there.

Some drivers said they didn’t even see the signs.

“I had no idea you weren’t supposed to park here. I didn’t even know the signs were there, never paid them any attention because there’s always cars here. So we just assumed you could park here,” Red Hill resident Karen Camp said.

“You know, no one follows those signs,” Steinberger said.

As for people stopping traffic to cross the highway, that happens frequently.

“You have these little kids that run in front of cars, you know, and that’s really dangerous,” Sunset Beach resident Debra Brinkley said.

Dangerous? Yes. Illegal? No.

“Pedestrians may legally cross the highway as there are no nearby crosswalks,” Yu said.

“Is there a solution to the traffic at Laniakea? Yes, there is, and unfortunately, it’s been 10 years that we’ve been waiting for the Department of Transportation to move forward on any solution. And there’s still nothing that’s close to being done,” said Sen. Gil Riviere, (D) Haleiwa, Waialua, Kahuku.

Sakahara told KHON2 the DOT isn’t doing anything right now about the Laniakea problem because it’s still waiting for the results of a shoreline certification process before taking any action. He doesn’t have a time frame on when that’ll happen.

“It looks like the new shoreline includes all of the highway and all of the area where everybody parks. So the question is if we know that the road is in the shoreline and is subject to erosion, isn’t now a great time to start realigning the highway?” Riviere said.

Riviere says the public has favored realigning the highway further inland to allow parking on the makai side of the highway, so that you won’t have people running across. That would be a long-term solution that would take time and money.

Riviere said another possible solution would be to create a parking lot in the area behind the no parking signs, on land that’s owned by the city and managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“The city acquired the land a few years ago with the purpose of building beach parking support so they would have a parking lot and beach parking facilities,” Riviere said.

But city spokesman Andrew Pereira told KHON2: “As this is undeveloped land, it would be unsuitable for parking.”

“I think the parks (department) and Department of Transportation need to put their heads together and start working together for the benefit of all the community,” Riviere said.

The sooner the better. With the winter surf season now here, you can expect more cars heading to the North Shore and traffic near Laniakea Beach.

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