SA – Cataluna: ‘Ain’t no traffic like a commute to Waianae’

Excerpt from Lee Cataluna’s “Ain’t no traffic like a commute to Waianae” (Star-Advertiser, March 12, 2017). Read the full article.

Exit 5A going into Ewa is stopped down, bumper to bumper as I drive past. That’s another situation, that clogged main artery in and out of all those bedroom neighborhoods. On the freeway, things are still moving.

Around Kahe Point, it starts to change. The flow of the freeway ends and there are stoplights and side streets and pedestrians. The closer to Waianae, the more congested the road. Along the roadside are houses with outdoor furniture that isn’t there just to create a decorative tableau. People sit in those chairs and couches and survey the situation.

When I get to my destination in Waianae, I’m an hour early because I had anticipated the worst. I am asked, “How was your drive?” I say that I started from town at 3:15 to make sure I got to Waianae by 6 o’clock. I see the distinct look of “Girl, you don’t even know” pass across some of the faces.

One lady tells me that when she goes to Vegas, they leave their house in Waianae at 5 in the morning to be sure they make it to the airport in time for a 2 p.m. flight. Once they get into town, they kill time in a restaurant until it’s time to check in. She doesn’t want to chance getting stuck in some horrific snarl that will make her miss her flight and then have to eat the cost of the ticket.

Another tells me that traveling the 2-mile corridor of Farrington Highway in Waianae can take two hours because of an accident. Someone else says often there is no accident or stall to blame. It’s just bad.

Rep. Andria Tupola tells the story of a Saturday morning traffic stall last year caused by unannounced roadside brush clearing. The traffic was stuck for three hours. “People missed their flights, their appointments, and one guy missed his own wedding!” she said. Tupola started a Facebook group, Westside Traffic Alert, where people can update their fellow travelers in real time. There are no traffic cameras in the area, so residents have to rely on each other for traffic reports.

None of this would be alleviated by rail. If traffic is stopped down on Farrington Highway in Waianae, none of those people can even get to the train.

There are plans in play to alleviate the problems. A comprehensive approach requires cooperation from the Army, Navy, state agencies and city departments. A community meeting is being held Monday night to update residents on the efforts. In attendance will be Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D, Kalaeloa- Waianae-Makaha), Rep. Cedric Gates (D, Waianae-Makaha-Makua), Councilmember Kymberly Pine and Tupola (R, Kalaeloa-Ko Olina-Maili).

There’s terrible traffic all over Oahu, but in other places, there are options. Folks on the North Shore have a bypass road and can head around to the Windward side. There are two ways into Waimanalo and three ways over the Pali. But the Leeward Coast is isolated. Tupola calls it “the largest cul-de-sac on the island.”

Of course, this is not news to residents of the Leeward Coast. They live this every day and marvel at how their situation feels so unimaginable to people who live on the same island. It’s news to those of us who think WE have it bad, but we don’t even know.

Read the full article on the Star-Advertiser site.