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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2001

Crosswalk to flash on Farrington

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

WAI'ANAE — An experimental flashing crosswalk system previously used on the Pali Highway soon will be in operation on Farrington Highway near Wai'anae High School. The reason: To see if the lights can improve safety for pedestrians on one of the state's most dangerous stretches of road.

Called the LightGuard System, the crosswalk uses a series of flashing light modules embedded in the pavement adjacent to a marked crosswalk to alert drivers that pedestrians are crossing the highway.

A state contractor will begin installing the system at Alawa Place July 30 and complete the job by Aug. 3.

"It will be in operation about a week after school begins," said Vincent Llorin, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the state Department of Transportation. "That will give them time to educate the students about the system."

Pedestrian accidents and deaths led to installation of the $45,400 system on the six-lane Pali Highway in March last year. The system was removed when a traffic signal was installed in October.

Llorin said installation of the pedestrian-activated system in Wai'anae will cost about $15,000 and use refurbished equipment taken from the Pali Highway.

Wai'anae residents chose the heavily used, four-lane Alawa Place intersection because of its proximity to a bus stop and three schools — Wai'anae Intermediate, Wai'anae High and Kamaile Elementary, said Wai'anae 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 Wai'anae community.

If this first trial location is successful, more lighted crosswalks could be installed at other busy locations along the coast, Rezentes said.

Farrington Highway along the Leeward Coast is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the state, with 12 traffic-related deaths last year, three of whom were pedestrians.

This year, 11 pedestrians have died on O'ahu; one was a 7-year-old boy who died June 8 while walking along the highway with his father in Nanakuli.

State transportation spokes-woman Marilyn Kali said the state has been looking at options to make Farrington Highway more pedestrian-friendly.

"(The crosswalk) worked very well on the Pali, and we hope it works equally well in Wai'anae," Kali said. "We will be trying it there and see what kind of comments we get back from the community."

Wai'anae Coast parks complex director Jackie Spencer said hundreds of children cross the highway daily to get to schools, beaches and parks.

A 10-year-old boy was killed in 1999 while in a crosswalk near Wai'anae District Park, Spencer said.

"Considering all the pedestrian accidents we have been having, a lighted crosswalk is a good idea," Spencer said. "Kids get banged out here all the time — two or three in the past few years — right here outside our facility."

The LightGuard System is designed to warn motorists of pedestrians, said Traffic Division police Sgt. Robert Lung.

"Most people drive oblivious and this will help them register in their minds that this is a crosswalk," Lung said.

A University of Hawai'i study showed that the Pali Highway crosswalk warning-light system made drivers slow down, reduced the waiting time for pedestrians and made more motorists yield to pedestrians.

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