Land transportation was one of the areas most affected by the post WWII and Statehood building booms. While O‘ahu’s population dramatically increased, automobile ownership rose at an even greater pace.
In 1938 automobile registration stood at 43,785. In 1945 the number of automobiles on island had grown to 52,527; a dozen years later, in 1957, automobile registration stood at 159,227, a 329.8 percent increase since 1945.
This tremendous influx of automobiles resulted in myriad needs having to be addressed, ranging from the reduction of traffic congestion to improved parking, and enhanced traffic safety measures.
The Territory undertook two other major highway projects, the mauka and makai arterials, to divert traffic off downtown streets. (HHS)
“‘A super highway through Honolulu, 120 feet wide and running mauka of the business district from Kalihi to Kaimuki … would be invaluable in solving Honolulu’s pressing traffic problem,’ engineer John Rush told the City Council in 1939.”
“It wasn’t until after World War II and a sudden increase in complaints about congestion that city officials got serious about the plan, proposing to spend $30 million over 15 years to build a six-lane expressway in 11-stages that would extend from Old Wai‘alae Road to Middle Street, about seven miles.” (Leidemann)
“Bids were opened on the first contract on the Mauka Arterial, Honolulu’s first expressway, which will eventually extend from King and Middle Streets to Kapahulu. By a series of grade separation structures, this seven-mile, six-lane, divided highway will carry crosstown commuters over all intersecting streams of north-south traffic.” (Public Works Annual Report, 1952)
From 1952 to 1962, Honolulu officials kept adding to the Mauka Arterial, described as the first road in the state “tailored to the flight patterns of people.”
A companion Makai Arterial that would have run past Waikiki, down Ala Moana and along an elevated roadway near the Honolulu waterfront never materialized as planned. (DOT)
The three ‘Ewa-bound lanes, extending one mile between Old Wai‘alae Road and Alexander Street, were opened to traffic November 9, 1953. (HHS)
When the first leg opened in 1953, it was hailed “as the highest standards of highway construction yet seen in the islands. Over-and underpasses keep cross-traffic to a minimum. A six-foot fence on both sides bars pedestrians and pets,” according to news reports. (DOT)
The Kaimuki-bound lanes along the same stretch were opened and the highway was formally dedicated on January 5, 1954. (HHS)
Construction forced the condemnation of more than 500 homes and the moving of several thousand people, tearing old neighborhoods apart. In Kaimuki, for instance, that meant razing the entire block of homes between Harding and Pahoa Avenues for the below street-level freeway.
“More blemishes are disappearing from the face of Honolulu as workmen tear down ancient, termite-ridden buildings and prepare to heal the wounds with construction of another segment of the ultra-modern Lunalilo Freeway,” said one 1959 editorial. (Honolulu Advertiser; DOT)
The second segment of the Lunalilo Freeway between Alexander and Alapaʻi was started in 1954, with progress reaching Keʻeaumoku Street by December 1955. By 1959 work had commenced on the interchange between the Lunalilo and Pali highways, which was the first three level grade separation structures to be constructed in Hawaii. (DOT)
The Lunalilo Highway project was expanded to become the H-1, a 28 mile roadway running from Palailai at Campbell Industrial Park to Ainakoa Avenue, with the Lunalilo Highway being the section running through Honolulu. (DOT)
The eight lane makai arterial, named Nimitz Highway, opened to traffic in November 1952, ten years after construction had commenced at the Pearl Harbor gate. (HHS)
“The last projects were nearing completion on the Makai Arterial. This limited access highway will ease travel between Pearl Harbor and Honolulu and between the airport and harbor and the Waikiki hotel district.” (Public Works Annual Report, 1952)
In 1952 transportation officials estimated it would take ten years to build, with costs running $2 million a year, with about one third of the budget dedicated for land acquisition.
It was the most expensive construction project up to that time in Hawai‘i, with much of the moneys devoted to land acquisition, as an estimated 1,600 families required relocation. To recoup some of the costs and to not increase Honolulu’s problematic housing shortage, the dwellings on the condemned lands were auctioned off.
In addition, the 1945 Territorial Legislature enacted a liquid fuel tax in order to generate the funds necessary to match the federal funds available for the highway’s construction. This tax was increased to five cents a gallon in 1955 to help offset Hawaii’s match for the increasing federal dollars coming to the islands for highway construction.
The advent of statehood led to an expansion of the Lunalilo Freeway into the H-1 Interstate Highway. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 established the Interstate Highway System; however, Hawaii was excluded from this source of funding as it bordered no other state.
To remedy this, a section of the Federal-Aid to Highways Act of 1959 required that a study be undertaken to consider the eligibility of Hawaii and Alaska for interstate highway funding.
As a result of the study, the Hawaii Omnibus Act, which President Eisenhower signed into law on July 12, 1960, removed the language in the Federal-Aid Highway Act which limited the interstate system to the continental US.
It also authorized three interstate highways for Hawaii, H-1, H-2 and H-3 to address national defense concerns, an allowed interstate highway justification which resulted from a 1957 amendment to the original act. (DOT)
An interesting remnant of apparently changed alignment (and probable interconnection of the Mauka and Makai Arterials) is a stub out to nowhere at the on/off ramps at Kapiʻolani Boulevard to H-1. (Lots of information here is from DOT, HHS and Leidemann.)
Follow Peter T Young on Facebook
Follow Peter T Young on Google+
Follow Peter T Young on LinkedIn
Follow Peter T Young on Blogger