With fewer cars on the roads, officials are pushing projects forward faster

Coronavirus

Ed Sniffen, Hawaii Department of Transportation Deputy Director of Highways, tells us they are seeing about 48-percent less traffic on the freeways on Oahu. So they’re asking contractors to extend their lane closure times and allow them to work during peak traffic times.

“When we give a contractor 2 additional hours to the work schedule per day, it equates to half a day time that they save,” he said.

Paving work and pothole repairs on some of the state roads have been expedited.

“We have all of our pothole maintenance guys working on the Windward side coming up very soon. We worked out our bridge projects to ensure that we can extend closures throughout at Maipaloa in Farrington Highway, on neighbor islands on Kauai and Maui as well,” said Sniffen.

As for city streets, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he’s trying to push repaving projects to get them done quickly. He says in the coming months, residents will see more roadwork in town.

“We are putting in another bike lane that is going down Pensacola, that’s already started. We are going to be repaving Ward which is really bad and putting a bike lane on both sides of the street there and we are trying to expedite that,” said the Mayor.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation says it intends to make full use of the lighter-than-normal traffic to fast-track work along Dillingham Boulevard. It’s one of the most complicated areas along the rail route, with utility lines in existing traffic lanes. Before the pandemic, some businesses were also concerned about lane closures and access.

HART tells us, “Already the Hawaii Department of Transportation has extended the lane closure times for the utility relocation work on Nimitz Highway in the Downtown area.”

“Once we start up things again and we will start opening things in the coming months, business will start to return and we don’t want to impact that business because now we’re doing major work so more done now the better and much should’ve been done prior to this,” said the Mayor.

But not all projects have been moving forward. While nothing has stopped, COVID-19 has delayed some elements of work mostly on the neighbor islands.

“Some of the contractors, who are based on Oahu, are deciding not to travel at this time. They want to make sure they can minimize any risk to their employees and also minimize any risk of transmission between islands,” said Sniffen.

As the virus changes the way the world functions in the future, the state says it’s preparing for more virtual meetings, electronic biddings, and virtual town halls for the public.

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