It was meant to be a temporary solution to ease traffic for those heading east and home to West Oahu, but the contraflow lane running through Nanakuli continues to cause headaches for those drivers.
They made their voices heard at a town hall meeting at the Ka Waihona o ka Naauao public charter school cafeteria Monday night.
One person said that “people going home from work, or going to work in the morning, let me tell you, how many of you guys get high blood pressure? That causes high blood pressure! You ask my doc, he’ll tell you that.”
“How many of us sitting in traffic behaving, while our people is coming on to that dirt road, dusting us out and catching us while we’re sitting in traffic,” said another.
The meeting was filled with residents ready to weigh in on the contraflow lane. Officials call the contraflow a temporary solution and even say that, along with the growing pains, they have seen progress.
“The majority of the feedback has been in strong support,” said State Senator Maile Shimabukuro. “Most people on this coast are coming home, driving westbound in the afternoon, so for them I heard they gotten dramatic improvement. They finally actually see their kids before it’s dark. They’re able to have dinner with their family. They’re just so grateful.”
One more permanent solution that was discussed was turning a proposed fifth lane — part of a turning lane project — into a contraflow lane. This would make it three lanes westbound and two eastbound.
Some drivers report waiting much longer than usual to travel east. Residents like Naomi Peterson are hoping a fifth lane is a possibility.
“I feel like the current contraflow still has problems with it,” she said. “It backs up all the way from the freeway by Kapolei, and then when you’re coming in, it kind of helps, but when you end up by the shopping center, then the traffic just accumulates there.”
Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the state Dept. of Transportation’s highways division, answered questions, saying he’s doing everything he can to make the contraflow work for everyone going east as well as west.
“We’re saving about 10 minutes per driver, going through the contraflow area in the westbound direction,” he said, “but we’re also seeing an impact to the eastbound drivers, and we want to try to alleviate that.”
An area of concern that was also brought up at the meeting was for teachers. Waianae High School principal Disa Hauge says it’s hard enough to get teachers to come to the west side of the island without the extra traffic to contend with “because it impacts their family life in a negative way, and it makes them rethink if they want to stay on the coast and be teachers.”
Residents did say that having a police presence during contraflow times has helped the project run more smoothly.