State proposing big changes to improve safety along Pali Highway

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

NUUANU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's a plan to save lives - take out crosswalks and bus stops on the Pali Highway.

That's the suggestion from state transportation officials.

After a study that covers a stretch of highway from Laimi Road to Waokanaka Street, they say it's just too dangerous to have people crossing six lanes of traffic.

On Wednesday night, the State Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled results of the study. Data from 1988 to 2008 show there have been 13 pedestrian accidents on the Pali Highway, seven of them happened at crosswalks, and three were fatal.

"Considering my front yard is right there and I have two little boys, I can't leave them in the front yard without worrying that some car is going to come and wipe them out," said John McLanahan, who lives near the Pali on Kaohinani Drive.

Crashes on the Pali Highway are all too familiar for nearby residents, and pedestrian safety is a concern they say they've brought up to at least two administrations.

At Nuuanu Elementary, the DOT presented short-term solutions to the community.

Option one is to leave it as is.

Option two is to remove crosswalks and bus stops at intersections without signals.

But the state recommends option three, which is to take out crosswalks and bus stops at Ahipuu Street, South Dowsett Avenue and Wood Street.

The problem is that would impact a lot of the elderly who cross the Pali to get to the bus stops.

"We also need to encourage people to take the bus, not discourage them," said Sesnita Moepono, a Liliha/Alewa Heights Neighborhood Board Member.

Another idea the community brought up is to use psychology - make the Pali look residential by planting brush or tall canopy trees so drivers won't speed through it like a highway.

That too, however, has a downside.

"When they did put trees in by that same segment by Kawananakoa, they had to uproot the trees later on because it was too high maintenance," said Moepono.

Honolulu Transportation Director, Wayne Yoshioka, suggested having a circulation bus to shuttle pedestrians to the bus stops, but said finding money would be an obstacle.

"But I think if you work through issues both with the state and the city and with the community, I think you can overcome some of those funding issues," said DOT Director Brennon Morioka, who said the idea was innovative.

Morioka says there's no single solution that will make every one happy, but their goal is to find a balance so the Pali doesn't end up being a battleground between drivers and pedestrians.

The DOT admits its recommendation to take out three crosswalks, and corresponding bus stops would force the elderly and other pedestrians to walk an extra 200 to 500 feet to get to the next nearest bus stop.

That's why the state is collecting input from residents, hoping to find a better answer.

The DOT plans to get more feedback from the surrounding communities, by attending their neighborhood board meetings.

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