Recently, we asked readers to share what they’ve found to be the worst intersections or stretches of roads on Oahu — the spots that cause the most headaches.

“This is like picking my favorite ice cream!” one local replied enthusiastically on Twitter. “Hard to do because there are so many nightmare flavors.”

Several dozen readers responded with examples that cover most of the island. Here are 10 of the most notable “nightmare flavors” identified in Civil Beat’s unscientific survey:

The Piikoi on-ramp + Punahou off-ramp: Multiple readers flagged this tricky stretch of the H-1 freeway, where eastbound drivers must swiftly change lanes in a short distance. Those who enter at Piikoi have a few hundred feet to move over to the freeway’s left-hand lanes in order to stay on the freeway instead of exiting at Punahou. Meanwhile, those looking to exit at Punahou have to watch out for drivers entering from Piikoi.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Transportation announced it will close the Piikoi entrance during the afternoon rush hour, from 3 to 6:30 p.m., to help address the crunch there.  

Atkinson Drive and Kapiolani Boulevard: This odd intersection next to the Hawaii Convention Center features an occasional left-turn arrow for westbound drivers on Kapiolani to veer onto Atkinson even when the light to continue on Kapiolani is red. If the first driver there doesn’t want to turn onto Atkinson and the light’s red, they’ll block any drivers behind them hoping to turn left. Readers say the design can cause back-ups during rush hour.

The University Avenue onramp: This freeway entrance is emblematic of all the antiquated road designs that Honolulu drivers are forced to navigate. One reader summarized succinctly: “That hold-up is horrible and dangerous for merging on short notice.”

Another reader, on Twitter, compared getting on the freeway there to the life-or-death pursuits dramatized in the post-apocalyptic movie “Mad Max: Fury Road”:

He’s not wrong. Another reader proposed shutting down the entrance altogether.

School and Kalihi streets: Poorly timed traffic signals combined with a busy entrance to the Kamehameha Shopping Center can cause eastbound traffic on School Street to back up a mile during the morning commute, according to one reader.

Kamehameha Highway and Acacia Road: The lanes to turn left onto Acacia from eastbound Kamehameha in Pearl City often overflow with cars and clog traffic. “I have not seen an accident yet but it’s only a matter of time,” one reader wrote.

Piikoi, Pensacola and the Lunalilo westbound entrance: There are plenty of gripes about this odd configuration.

“People cutting in last minute causing major stop and go,” one reader wrote. “The sign that reads ‘do not block intersection’ does not exist in drivers eyes!” another reader lamented.

The H-1 creates an unusual wall in the heart of town for drivers to navigate:

Lunalilo and Piikoi Street looking Diamond Head Direction as cars merge on the westbound onramp.
Lunalilo and Piikoi Street looking toward Diamond Head as cars merge on the westbound onramp. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The freeway, at one point called the “Mauka Arterial,” was built in town in the 1950s to ease growing traffic. But it also carved across established neighborhoods and created awkward side effects around it.

“You look at how it really bisected communities, and it’s not necessarily a good thing,” mused Jon Nouchi, Honolulu’s deputy director for Transportation services. “The freeway made distant neighbors of people.”

Another reader chimed in on Twitter:


King Street, South Street, Alapai Street and Kapiolani: It’s a dizzying mash-up of busy one- and two-way streets, bike lanes and even a shady decorative water volcano, where drivers absolutely need to anticipate where they’d like to go and get in the correct lane accordingly.

On King, be sure to avoid the right lane if you don’t want to get onto Kapiolani. On South, drivers in the right lane don’t necessarily have to turn onto Kapiolani — but then they do have to turn right on King.

The intersection needs better paint on the road to direct drivers where to go, one reader said.

“It’s an awkward crossing for people,” Nouchi said.

Some decades ago, before the Civic Center campus was built, Kapiolani extended all the way to Beretania, which made it a bit easier for drivers heading mauka, he added.

Fort Weaver Road and Kolowaka Drive: Drivers turning left onto Fort Weaver from Kolokawa in Ewa often veer too far right, disrupting the drivers turning right onto Fort Weaver from the other side of the street, one reader tweeted:

Kolowaka Drive at Fort Weaver Road Google Maps

Date Street, Kamoku Street and Kapiolani: “So many roads converging creates confusion,” one of the readers vented about this intersection. It’s a maze of hard and soft turns that shoots drivers out into all different directions. If you’re heading east on Kapiolani be sure to get to the left in order to stay on that road. Otherwise, you’ll involuntarily turn right onto Date.

Kapiolani in Kaimuki originally was supposed to be the site of additional ramps coming off the H-1, according Nouchi. Those ramps were never built, however, and the city was left with this wide, “monster” intersection, as he put it.

Queen Emma Street and South Vineyard Boulevard: The intersection is a mess during rush hour. Mauka- and makai-bound vehicles turning off Queen Emma vie for the lanes on Vineyard and have to watch for crossing pedestrians — many of them students at nearby schools, readers said. The turning vehicles also slow the cars continuing straight on Queen Emma, which backs up traffic, they added. “It’s a disaster, especially for makai traffic turning left,” one reader wrote.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author