Ala Wai users should note disruption on the canal

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (08/07/99)
By Ray Pendleton

Somehow, Simon and Garfunkel's classic song, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, kept going through my mind.

If you haven't guessed, I was in the audience at last week's community briefing on the upcoming construction of a pedestrian viaduct that will span the Ala Wai Canal on the makai side of the Kalakaua Avenue bridge. My concern was to what degree the project would effect the everyday users of the canal, i.e., canoe and kayak paddlers.

We were told the new bridge will be built because it was determined that the projected flow of pedestrians between Waikiki's hotels and the new convention center will overwhelm the capacity of the current sidewalk on the Kalakaua bridge.

For me, that image is hard to picture. But I could imagine such a situation if the pedestrians were in a group of 100 or so conventioneers disembarking from a ferry on the Waikiki side of the canal.

It's that kind of image that makes me wonder if our planners are telling us everything they have up their collective planning sleeves. The use of ferries on the Ala Wai is not out of the question, but it is certainly something that should be discussed with the canal's recreational users long before implementation.

I also wonder, as does Honolulu businessman Dick Morris, why the project wasn't integrated with the convention center's construction.

Instead, just when the surrounding community has finally gotten over the shell-shock of that multi-year project, they can now look forward to the first year of the millennium filled with the sounds of bridge-building.

I know a pedestrian bridge doesn't sound like much, but this is a $5 million capitol improvement. The span will be 14 feet wide, 180 feet long and will be supported by pilings in 30 separate locations. The pile driving alone will take an estimated four months, although the Department of Transportation representative assured those at the meeting that a "less noisy hydraulic hammer and a sound-deflecting shroud," will be used.

As expected, the construction project will have some impacts on recreational water activities in the canal, as well.

During a majority of the coming year, canoe and kayak paddlers and other boaters will be asked to share the waterway with a construction barge, a crane and pile driving equipment. However, the contractor is required to plan and coordinate the construction to allow the passage of water craft through at least one of the three bridge arches, except when overhead work would pose a safety hazard.

When such hazards to safe passage are foreseen, the contractor will be required to distribute and conspicuously post notices advising water craft users of a passage closure at least six weeks in advance. And such closures must not occur on more than one day in any five-day work week.

At any other time, the contractor will be required to control construction activities to ensure the safe passage of water craft through the work area. If necessary, construction activities will be temporarily halted to allow such passage.

With such requirements, it would appear that the construction and the paddlers will be able to reasonably coexist.

And once the bridge is in place, perhaps the state will recognize that with so many conventioneers looking down at the Ala Wai, it is surely in its best interests to improve its water quality.

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