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How To Beat Traffic With Schools Opening, UH Restarting Monday

Hawaii Department of Transportation
Crews installed five raised crosswalks on Kalihi Street in May 2019.

It happens every fall. Schools and the University of Hawai?i restart for the new year and the roads grow significantly more congested. This time, officials say drivers can use several new safety improvements to ease their way through the annual back-to-school traffic jam.

The state Department of Transportation announced Monday it?s created more raised crosswalks on O?ahu, modified its traffic alert systems and installed new road cameras on Kaua?i. More are planned for Maui.

The department also plans to suspend construction projects next week between 4 a.m. and 8 p.m. on major state highways to avoid tieups.

Drivers can also use DOT's and GoAkamai app to plan their best routes, in addition to checking popular tools like the Waze app, Google Maps and Apple Maps.

The DOT is also improving its own website to alert drivers of projects happening on roadways. The department's Highways Program Status webpage allows people to track current and future highway projects. Residents currently have access to a project's start date, completion percentage, estimated cost and completion date. But the department is looking to provide additional information, such as: pavement conditions, traffic counts for state roadways, bridge information and information on fatal crashes.

To improve safety, officials say, crews have in recent months installed raised crosswalks in school districts with heavy pedestrian traffic, including on:

  • Kalihi Street near Kal?kaua Intermediate, Kalihi Kai Elementary and Farrington High schools.
  • Farrington Highway near Wai?anae High School and the M?kaha Surfside complex.
  • Fort Weaver Road near Ilima Intermediate, Pohakea Elementary and James Campbell High schools.

"The features [raised crosswalks] increase the visibility of pedestrians and slow drivers down to the speed limit when traveling through the area," said Ed Sniffen, DOT highways division deputy director in a statement.
Four traffic cameras have been set up along Kauai?s Kuhio Highway on Kaua?i. The images can be seen online at GoAkamai.Org.

At a press conference Monday, Sniffen said there will soon be more cameras for Maui.

"We upgraded 82 of our signals on Maui to make sure we can update them realtime. So we can monitor the situations on the roadway. Ten of those intersections will have cameras on them. Those cameras will be up on GoAkamai in two weeks. 

"So in two weeks timeframe, you can start seeing Maui traffic come through. We are also adding traveling times on Maui and those are going to be up in the next couple of weeks as well."

Sniffen said DOT expects travel times for Kaua?i to be available next summer while Big Island traffic data should be available by the end of the year.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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