I’ve experienced the morning traffic going down the Wailua Homesteads hill on Kuamoo a few times.
And I have had many opportunities to join in the experience of Kuhio Highway between Kapaa and the Wailua River.
By the way, interesting thing … Kapaa, in Hawaiian means “The Stuck.”
At times, I intentionally get into that traffic on Kuhio Highway just to see if I can analyze and figure out why the traffic backs up so bad in that area. I’ve had some experience doing that sort of thing.
I’m sure that the signal timing at the intersection of Kuhio and Kuamoo is likely set to maximize the green time on Kuhio Highway, particularly southbound toward Lihue.
I have concluded that there are several reasons for the backup on Kuhio Highway.
Here are a few of the reasons, not necessarily in order of severity.
w The signal at Kuhio/Haleilio
The northbound left turn arrow is set to go on through every cycle, even when there is no demand for it during non contraflow hours. I’m sure this is set this way because that left turn lane becomes a through lane southbound during contra flow operations. This unnecessary left turn arrow uses up valuable seconds of the southbound green cycle and is a part of the reason for the south bound traffic delays during non-contraflow hours.
In addition, vehicles exiting Haleilio onto Kuhio, when detected, are properly given green time, but even a vehicle turning right, that doesn’t need the green time activates the detection and causes an interruption in the cycle taking away precious seconds from the southbound green segment.
w Illegal left turns
Kuhio Highway is considered a major highway on Kauai.
Except for controlled intersections, (signalized intersections) left turns from a major highway should be avoided as much as possible. Left turns onto and from Kuhio Highway especially in that area, and north of the Kuhio/Haleilio intersection are numerous and illegal. Yet it continues to happen, causing a very hazardous situation and traffic delays. Perhaps a redesign and a repainting of the double yellow lines, and some police enforcement from time to time may help, until that intersection is reconstructed with the proposed, hopefully properly designed highway widening project.
w Speed limits
At present, I’m not sure what the speed limits are but when you have a 25 mph street merging into another 25 mph street, and the speed limit after the merge is still 25 mph, the only possible result is a backup. It’s called a ” bottleneck,” for obvious reasons.
If the uncontrolled left turns on and off Kuhio can be minimized or removed completely, there is no reason why that stretch of Kuhio Highway. from Aleka Loop near Longs to the Wailua River shouldn’t be increased to 35 mph. I am convinced that this would considerably reduce the traffic backup on Kuhio Highway.
Poor driving habits of the drivers themselves, whether they’re locals or tourists, is most definitely one of the primary reasons for the traffic issues, not just along the Wailua corridor, but all over the island.
While traffic may be flowing slowly but constantly, there’s always that “Joe Aloha” who stops to let one person in from a side road or driveway. While that “Joe Aloha” only stops or slows down for five seconds or so, due to reaction time, it affects the flow of traffic behind him exponentially, one vehicle after another. While it may be the “Aloha Spirit” to let that one vehicle slip into line in front of you, is it really the Aloha Spirit to the 20, 30 or 40 drivers behind you?
Another habit of drivers that affects traffic flow is the inability to pay attention when stopped at a red light. There are several reason why traffic signal heads are put on poles way up above the traffic. One reason is so that all drivers in all vehicles that are waiting at a red light can see the signal turn green at the same time. Theoretically, so that drivers can start moving forward at about the same time which allows the maximum amount of vehicles to cross the intersection during that green light phase. This is called “platooning.”
It is amazing that the gap between vehicles crawling through a green light at 15 mph is far greater than the gap between vehicles traveling at 40 mph on the highway. This very inconsiderate attitude by drivers, I believe, is a major cause of traffic delays.
It’s all about courtesy, consideration and respect.
Think about how your actions or inactions affect others around you. In back of you, as well as in front of and alongside of you.
Larry Arruda is a resident of Kapaa.