Lawmaker calls for DOT transparency as debate grows over road projects on Pali Highway

A debate over crosswalks on Pali Highway is just one of the many longstanding disagreements between lawmakers and the state Transportation Department.
Updated: Jan. 29, 2022 at 5:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As debate grows over road projects like raising crosswalks on Pali Highway, one lawmaker is introducing a bill to ensure transparency from the state Department of Transportation.

A few years ago, the legislature passed a bill that allocated funding toward making the crosswalks on Pali Highway safer.

Lawmakers like state Sen. Karl Rhoads asked for the state to install lighted crosswalks, which would only activate when someone is crossing. Instead, two raised crosswalks were installed near Ahipuu Street and upper Dowsett Avenue.

“It’s scary watching the cars coming down,” said Willy Lau of Honolulu.

While some people aren’t taking any chances on the raised crosswalks, others find them helpful.

“I think overall, it’s good,” said Dean Sueda of Honolulu.

But residents agree, the more resources on the highway, the better.

“They should do both just to slow drivers down,” said Lau.

“I think it’s best to do both,” said Sueda.

In a senate committee hearing on transportation earlier this month, Rhoads questioned the Transportation Department.

“When you disagree with the legislature? Who gets the last word?” Rhoads asked. “I mean, that we’re the ones who set the policy so even if you disagree with the policy, aren’t you obligated to follow it?”

The Deputy Director of DOT, Ed Sniffen said the raised crosswalks is proving to be effective adding that it also saves more money.

“The funding that we’re going to use to put in signals in that area would have been upwards of four to $5 million,” said Sniffen. “We’ve put in the raised pedestrian crosswalks, but that slowed the speed in that area tremendously for $50,000.”

“I disagree, so it comes back to you know, who gets to make the decision?” Rhoads asked.

State Sen. Chris Lee, chair of the Transportation Committee, said these disagreements occur from time to time.

“There have been a number of communities and a number of legislators who have expressed some frustration over projects like this in their areas,” said Lee.

Lee introduced an oversight bill which would mean establishing a commission to ensure DOT is being transparent.

“That’s something where we want to bring people together and ensure there’s some oversight and accountability and transparency,” said Lee.

“But also, the ability to work together to help solve these dangerous intersections and crosswalks and highways and all the things that are out there.”

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