Wednesday, January 10, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Wai'anae may get special crosswalk warning system

Graphic: Crosswalk warning lights
Crosswalk lights study's key findings

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

Previous stories:
Fatality put focus on Pali traffic
Crosswalk fatalities show need for caution
A successful experimental crosswalk warning light system installed on the Pali Highway last March will likely be installed this year on the Waianae Coast, state transportation officials said this week.

The pedestrian-activated system features amber-colored flashing lights, embedded around the crosswalk, which are designed to warn motorists of pedestrians. The system recently received a favorable evaluation from the University of Hawaii.

The evaluation also pointed out, though, that substantial numbers of motorists fail to yield to pedestrians despite the flashing lights.

Pedestrian accidents and deaths led to installation of the $45,400 system on the six-lane Pali Highway last March.

The system was removed when a $500,000 traffic signal and improvements were installed last October at Jack Lane.

Transportation officials said the Waianae Coast is the next area planned for the crosswalk warning light system designed by LightGuard Systems Inc. of Santa Rosa, Calif.

"We plan to put the embedded light system on Farrington Highway at the intersection of Alawa Place, right next to Waianae High School," said Vincent Llorin, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the state Department of Transportation.

"We’ve received written confirmation from the Waianae Neighborhood Board, saying that’s the location they requested."

Llorin said installation of the system will cost about $15,000 and will use "refurbished" equipment taken from the Pali Highway. The system is to be installed by the end of the year, Llorin said.

Ron Tsuzuki, head of the state Department of Transportation Planning Branch and acting highways administrator, said the Waianae area is the next most important area that the state needs to examine because of pedestrian accidents.

Tsuzuki called the crosswalk warning light system "effective" and an attention-getter.

Waianae residents chose the heavily-used, four-lane Alawa Place intersection because of its closeness to a bus stop and to three schools — Waianae Intermediate, Waianae High and Kamaile Elementary, said Waianae Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Cynthia Rezentes.

She called that stretch of highway a "high-traffic area" and said residents saw the site as beneficial to both students and a large portion of the Waianae community.

Statistics showed the crosswalk warning light system made drivers slow down, provided less waiting time for pedestrians and made more motorists yield to pedestrians, among other positive results, according to a $23,000 University of Hawaii evaluation that was prepared in cooperation with the state Department of Transportation, Highways Division, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.

The University of Hawaii evaluation showed "clearly positive results" and said the experiment at Pali Highway could be characterized as a success, according to the author of the evaluation, associate professor of civil engineering Panos Prevedouros.

The report also said the system should be seriously considered for other locations where pedestrian safety is an issue and signals are not warranted.

The system is expected to be more effective at narrower crossings along streets which are not major arterials, the report said.

The report also listed disadvantages of the system, including visibility problems in daylight, inability to generate very high or total compliance by motorists, and the potential for some pedestrians to gain an unwarranted sense of security.

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