Waimanalo businesses are struggling to survive ongoing road works

What was once just a 3-minute drive from Olomana Golf Course to downtown Waimanalo has become a 40-minute stop and drive for Monique Mook.

Since Phase 2 of the Kalanianaole highway improvements began in January, the $ 15.3 million project has cost locals and businesses time and money.

Mook, who works at Hawaiian Island Cafe in downtown Waimanalo Town Center, said the cafe has lost about 30 percent of its business due to ongoing travel and she was late for the cafe several times after leaving her daughter at Kailua High School.

“We have regular customers who don’t have that much time for their lunch break who will call and ask if the road work is bad,” Mook said. “Because they don’t want to sit in traffic and wait to get off here.”

Transport officials say improvements to the Kalanianaole highway will be “substantially completed” by the end of this year. Alicia Lou / Civil Beat / 2022

The project includes improvements from Poalima Street to the vicinity of Makai Pier and Koolaupoko.

So far, the paving of the Kalanianaole highway from Makay Quay to Bell Street has been completed, as well as the installation of new concrete sidewalks, curbs and gutters on the side of the Mauka Highway from Inaole Street to Poalima Street.

Workers are currently renovating the pavement from Kaiona Beach Park to Aloiloi Street and installing a new drainage system from Moole Street to Tinker Road. New safety features have been added to the range, such as raised footpaths and extended pavement.

The state expects the project to be completed by the end of the year, but locals are already worried.

Lani Ahuna, a 77-year-old resident of Kulanakauhale in Weimanalo, a rental site for the local Hawaiian coupon, said many residents have not wanted to leave the facility since road works began.

“People are afraid to cross the road,” Ahuna said. “What they’re doing is catching the bus, but it has such a horrible schedule because of the traffic… So you just have to wait all the time.”

“How do we deal with this?” Ahuna asked. “Why can’t they keep it for midnight or something when the traffic is less?” … I don’t know what the solution is. ”

Road works Waimanalo
Residents of Waimanalo are getting tired of the ongoing construction. Alicia Lou / Civil Beat / 2022

While people struggle to move or just don’t want to get into traffic jams, businesses in the area say they are suffering.

Kat Moon, operations manager at Kalapawai Market, said sales at the Waimanalo location had fallen by at least 20 percent, and Christine Grace, manager at Kalapawai, said her staff members were 30 to 45 minutes late for work due to traffic generated by road work. On slower days, Grace had to send them home.

Kalapawai Market first opened in Kailua in 1932, before expanding to three more locations. Waimanalo opened in December 2020 and at that time served hundreds of meals a day.

Although both business and staff were affected, Moon said he would not adjust working hours. “The company was set up long enough that we withstood the storm several times,” Moon said. “We’re a little more comfortable with it, and we’d rather stay consistent to be accessible to the community.”

However, unlike Hawaiian Island Cafe and Kalapawai Market, which are well-known companies in the local community, Beastside Kitchen, a coastal restaurant in Waimanalo that only opened in September 2021, is still trying to set up name.

James Kiko left the bar and restaurant industry 16 years later when pandemic restrictions shortened his hours, and launched the Beastside Kitchen.

“We finally got some traction and then they started working on the road,” Kiko said. “I used to have a queue of workers driving here for lunch, but they stopped coming after the traffic got really bad.”

Road works Waimanalo
Will the new business experience the effects of current road work? Alicia Lou / Civil Beat / 2022

Beastside Kitchen currently operates seven days a week, but Samuel Allen, Kiko’s business partner, said they may have to close for a few days or even a week due to road work because they lose money and lose food by opening.

“For a small business that is just starting to grow, a few days without sales can have a huge effect,” Allen said. “We can lose thousands of dollars in business.”

“From looking at our sales models – you can see on the weekends when there is no road work, our sales are not only much higher, but also more consistent,” said Allen, adding that road work seems to be “safe.” situation, ”because either there is an overflow of traffic but people are stuck in their cars, or there is no traffic because people are too worried about getting stuck. Either way, they don’t see the same number of customers.

Kiko, whose three children attend Waimanalo Elementary School, just over half a mile from Beastside Kitchen, said taking his children after school became a 45-minute ordeal due to trafficking, which eventually forced him to allow his children to walk. walk to the back roads where he meets them instead.

Kiko, who was born, raised and currently lives in Weimanalo near most of his family, said he was not the only one in town who thought road work could be done in the evening and that the state should not have starts simultaneously on both sides of the Kalanianaole highway.

Shelley Kunishige, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Transport, said night work is usually done only in less populated areas that do not directly affect homes, as the reconstruction of concrete sidewalks involves digging the top four inches of asphalt, which can be devastating. during late hours.

Marvin Luckfield, a permanent engineer at the Department of Transportation, said in an email: “We asked the contractor to notify all construction companies and homeowners in the project area when work will be available” and to make sure they maintain 24/7 access. . The contractor also hires several special police officers on a daily basis to help alleviate traffic and the safety of motorists and pedestrians. “

Junior Fitiausi, head of MIRA Image Construction at the Waimanalo site, which has been working in construction since 2005, said working at night was also less safe for workers. “Night work – we do it if we have to,” he said. “There are drunk drivers you have to worry about at night, police cars and things like that.”

“We hope to finish before the end of the year and everything goes smoothly, because for us we do not want to extend anything, the longer you extend, the more money,” said Fitiausi.

However, residents and business owners believe that the impact of road works on traffic could have been avoided.

“Weimanalo is basically a two-lane city where you can enter from any side of the island,” Kiko said. “But working at both ends, they completely closed the city … Road work needs to be done, but they could have done it better.”

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