Short-term solution underway at Laniakea; single-lane closure scheduled next week

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) will have a single-lane closure on Kamehameha Highway at Laniakea Beach beginning Monday, Nov. 8, through Friday, Nov. 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

HDOT said the work will support the city’s improvements to the undeveloped land on the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway to allow for parking.

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On Friday, Nov. 5, HDOT added new signs and two crosswalks at Laniakea as part of the state and city’s short-term fix for the traffic congestion that has occurred in the area for over a decade. During peak tourism, it can take North Shore residents up to an hour and a half to drive seven to eight miles through the area, while tourists dart across the highway to look at turtles at Laniakea.

The current project has a one-way in and one-way out parking area; barriers and guardrails prevent cars and pedestrians from entering and exiting the entire stretch of parking.

The crosswalks have been installed at the openings to the parking area. Entry to the parking area is accessible as a right-turn from northbound Kamehameha Highway only; the exit is a right-turn-only out back onto Kamehameha Highway in the northbound direction heading toward Waimea.

The new signs installed by HDOT include “no left turn,” prohibiting cars from turning left while exiting the parking area, as well as from turning left into the parking area if driving toward Haleiwa. Additionally, there are “no parking, stopping, standing, loading and unloading” signs in front of the barriers.

Tour busses will also not be allowed to park in the new parking area.

Although the project is not complete yet, on Saturday the crosswalks were visible and many people did not use them. These new crosswalks have raised concerns about whether they will help alleviate the traffic situation in the area.

“I’m not a civil engineer; however, on a personal level my concern is with the traffic and my understanding of crosswalks is it’s no longer illegal to cross the street here, but it’s now legal — so I would be forced to stop,” said North Shore resident Thomas Melum. “Personally, this seems like it’s going to make the matter worse in my opinion.”

The stop-and-go traffic has created the problem. In the HDOT’s environmental assessment published in August, 200 to 300 pedestrians per hour cross the highway during peak periods between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Melum and other residents are happy something is finally being done about the traffic issue, but also noted that adding a parking area promotes illegal behavior — people getting close to turtles.

“This promotes the behavior that corralling around turtles is acceptable, and to me, I know it’s illegal and you can be fined for it if you get too close. So, I don’t like the idea of promoting that behavior,” Melum added.

“I think they should just keep the barriers up,” said North Shore resident Jason Magallanes. “Green sea turtles are an endangered species, you’re not supposed to be around them; it’s totally illegal, the state knows that but they do nothing about it. Shut it down, make it preservation, barrier this whole place off there are 150 beaches on the North Shore, why stop here?”

Melum and Magallanes said they would like the crosswalks to be on a timer so there will not be a constant flow of tourists crossing the highway, but the state said it is not installing activated beacons at these particular crosswalks.

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In August, HDOT filed a plan to shift Kamehameha Highway 50-feet inland, and parking would be moved to the makai side, which most residents said they would prefer.

The state said work for that project could start in late 2023 and could take two years to complete.

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