United States Army officials have proposed closing a large portion of Kalia Road in Waikiki as part of redevelopment of its Fort DeRussy Complex.
But some say the change would cause gridlock and significantly increase commute times for workers in Hawaii’s busiest tourist district.
The Army wants to close Kalia between Paoa Place and Saratoga Road, replacing the roadway with tree-lined walkways and interpretive trails allowing for a better experience.
Fort DeRussy is home to the U.S. Army Museum, the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and a hotel that provides space for armed forces and civilians to meet and socialize.
According to a report by the Honolulu Star- Advertiser, the City and County of Honolulu has pushed back, saying it opposes the closure of a vital and heavily-used connector for traffic entering and exiting Waikiki, which is also one of the state’s most highly populated residential areas.
Army officials said the plan, which requires public input to proceed, won’t be set into motion anytime soon.
U.S. Army spokesman Rick Black told the Star-Advertiser: “U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii previously started discussions with the City of Honolulu in 2017 in relation to potential planning efforts including multiple options regarding the portion of Kalia Road within the boundary of Fort DeRussy. Due to higher Army priorities, the Army did not pursue any formal actions since the initial collaborative discussions.”
The plan has been dropped from the planning process, but the Army has not officially pulled it from a list of potential projects.
Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell received a letter from the Army in 2017 informing the city that the Army’s master plan called for the closure of Kalia Road.
The Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii conducted a traffic study to identify the most appropriate routes for new development. Army engineers determined as the installation builds out its master plan, the biggest impact will be the closure of Kalia Road.
The changes would require a federal funding authorization, and likely would need to go through the National Environmental Policy Act process to determine the environmental effects of the planned actions.
Regardless of the status of the Fort DeRussy project, the Army has asked the city to share in Kalia Road’s maintenance costs.
The Army and city must also reach agreement on how the Army’s long-range plans for the redevelopment of Fort DeRussy might affect current financial investments.
Residents outside of Waikiki who bus into the district for work are expected to face the greatest impact from the closure.
The city estimated years ago that closing Kalia without an alternate replacement would create gridlock on an already busy section of Ala Moana Boulevard that cannot accommodate increased traffic volume.
A round-trip commute from Ewa Beach to Waikiki could increase to five hours from three hours a day as a result of longer walk times to get to bus stops and longer waits for bus service if the road was closed, the city said.