State closer to flipping switch on H2 freeway lights - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State closer to flipping switch on H2 freeway lights

WAIPIO (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Transportation's "reconductoring" project to power the street lights on the H2 freeway covers 8.3 miles and costs $2.4 million. But will it keep copper thieves at bay?

As traffic sped by Monday, a crew from Paul's Electric worked on the freeway lights along the southbound lane, lighting the lamps and securing the lamp posts.

State Rep. Ryan Yamane (D-Waipio Gentry, Mililani) said he's in the dark about how the new system is better than the old.

"We want to make sure that what they've done now is different from what they've done in the past to try to address that specific issue of copper theft," he said.

The DOT said it's securing street light base access panels with a special bolt to prevent unauthorized entry. Hawaii News Now pressed for more specifics but were told DOT is not disclosing details to keep information from copper thieves.

Bill Bass of the Mililani Neighborhood Board said that's understandable but frustrating for taxpayers.

"We've talked for a long time about having the Director of Transportation (Glenn Okimoto) come out and give us a briefing. It looks like the time is coming for that to happen," he said.

"It should frustrate a lot of people because we're putting in a $3 million investment," Yamane said.

Yamane's district includes the H2 area. The lights began going out in 2006. He's tried to get them back on ever since, but concern over re-occurring theft and diverting of money set aside for repairs delayed the project.

His constituents aren't happy.

"Whenever there's an accident over here, people question, 'Is it because of a lack of lighting?' and, 'Would that have prevented any type of incident?'" he said.

The transportation department said it can't bolt the copper wire to the lighting frame or weld access panels shut, partly because of federal safety regulations.

DOT said it's evaluating other techniques to deter copper theft, but it's keeping those methods secret for now. If all goes according to schedule the H2 street lights should be back on by November.

Motorists who observe possible copper wiring thefts should call 911 and report it to police.

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