- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - A surge in the popularity of Hawaii’s Lanikai Beach has left many longtime residents frustrated by extreme traffic back-ups.

Locals said the last week of 2015 was particularly bad, with beautiful weather causing holiday visitors to clog the Lanikai loop. Mollie Foti, who has lived on the loop for nearly 50 years, said traffic there was backed up from about 1:30 p.m. to almost 7.

“If we want to go to the store, you have to make sure you go in the morning and get back,” she said.

Residents say the Lanikai’s popularity has soared since TripAdvisor named it the world’s best beach a few years ago.

Resident Celeste Smith told Hawaii News Now that her son recently needed to get to the airport for a 9 p.m. flight, but she realized by 6 p.m. that driving there wasn’t a possibility.

“It was just a parking lot. Cars stopped for as long as an hour, people just turning off their engines, just walking around, playing music,” she said.

“We had to strap duffle bags to the back of our electric bikes and we rode down the bike lane and met my husband in Kailua, who luckily had the car out of Lanikai for the day.”

President Barack Obama’s vacation is also adding to locals’ traffic woes. One of his usual stops is the nearby Island Snow Hawaii, and his motorcade snarls traffic even more than normal.

“I was worried Obama would be stopping for shave ice today,” Jenny Wong, who lives in the Lanikai neighborhood, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Wednesday. That was the day of her daughter’s wedding at Mid Pacific Country Club in Lanikai, and Obama’s craving could have meant massive delays for the guests.

Bride Brittany Wong said she once had to hang out in Kailua for an hour while the president and his family had shave ice.

“It’s frightening if there was a medical emergency,” she said, referring to the difficulty emergency vehicles would have navigating the roads. “If someone had a heart attack, they wouldn’t survive.”

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