City: What’s Taking So Long?

Continuing work on the Ala Wai Canal hampers cyclists, runners and paddlers.

Though last spring’s record rainfall held Hawai‘i hostage for more than six weeks, it is mostly a damp and faded memory. But for those who live along Ala Wai Boulevard and Ala Wai Canal, or use it to commute, or to run, walk, bike or paddle, the residue left from 48 million gallons of raw sewage dumped into the canal remains a stronger sensory experience.

Between a pipe and a hard place — sewer work along the Ala Wai Canal creates an obstacle course. photo: Sergio Goes

Barricades line McCully Street for about a quarter-mile, designed to protect temporary wastewater pumps. The bike lane is closed off, making life for cyclists a little dicier. Waikiki resident Doug Jones will not bike along the Ala Wai Canal anymore, since he must share a lane with cars and buses, often exceeding the 35 mph speed limit. “It’s just not safe,” he explains.

The stretch of barricades also closed the sidewalk, making it impossible to walk the length of the canal without crossing to the makai side of the street. But you probably wouldn’t want to walk, run or paddle along the Ala Wai anyway, due to the smell. Though not as strong as it was last April, it’s still hanging around, making outdoor sports a whole lot less pleasant.

When the city and county of Honolulu announced the Beachwalk Wastewater Emergency Bypass project in May 2006, it was not clear about the completion date. The process needed to replace the 43-year-old forced-main pipes that run under Kai‘olu Street is slow and tedious. Until the pipes are replaced, residents are stuck with the giant orange pumps along the canal.

“We are trying to be responsible by not removing them prematurely,” says Ken Kawahara, of the Department of Environmental Services. He advises people to be patient, citing safety concerns.

According to a city and county update, the bulk of the Ala Wai Canal work should be finished this summer. For more on the project’s progress, log on to or call 543-8374.