The Legislature would need to appropriate funding for the project to proceed.

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Whitmore Avenue in Wahiawa is known for heavy traffic during the after-school rush at Helemano Elementary. The school’s last bell goes off at 2:05 p.m., and Principal Ernest Muh acknowledged that on most days, heavy traffic will persist in the area for hours.

He believes an additional access point would relieve some of the congestion.

“A route that usually takes just a couple of minutes to drive can take an extra 15 minutes, just to get out of the village,” Muh said.

Therefore, a request for a resolution to this recurrent snarl was submitted by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, asking the state to create a new access point from Whitmore Village to Kamehameha Highway, via Saipan Road.

Senator Donovan Dela Cruz.
Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz represents the area that includes Whitmore Village on Oahu. He submitted a resolution asking the state to create a new access point to help relieve heavy traffic in the area. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021)

Dela Cruz said that funding doesn’t exist for this project yet, so it would first need to be appropriated by the Legislature before the Hawaii Department of Transportation could proceed. But there could be other problems with this idea, too.

“HDOT supports the intent of (the resolution) to create a second access point,” said Shelly Kunishige, the agency’s communications manager. But, she added, Saipan Drive is under federal jurisdiction. 

The state therefore would need to coordinate with the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific and the National Security Agency Hawaii, Kunishige said, before a scope for an access point and cost estimate could be created.

Until such collaboration happens, Kunishige said, concrete details about the project, including cost and timeline, cannot be accurately estimated.

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Muh said that in Whitmore Village — which has a population of about 4,000, according to the Census Reporter — Saipan Road leads to the National Security Agency building, and their employees are also trying to navigate the traffic.

This new access point therefore would help staff members commute to and from work faster and more efficiently, too. 

“I do feel bad for employees at the school,” Muh said. “Traffic is really bad.” 

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