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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Farrington Highway improvements planned

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

WAI'ANAE — On the heels of the worst year for highway deaths in a decade on the Wai'anae Coast, the Hawai'i Legislature has appropriated $5 million for safety improvements on Farrington Highway.

Lorretta Pinero holds up a photo book of her 2-year-old baby Clifford who was run over by a city bus on Farrington Highway on March 9, 1982. She said the accident happened on one of the deadliest stretches in Ma'ili. With her are her sister Linda Pinero and sister Dolores Pinero holding her baby Nicole Pinero. The Legislature has approved $5 million to make Farrington Highway safer.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa said the improvements will include a variety of changes specifically designed for trouble spots.

"There isn't one fix for everything. What may work on Ma'ili Point may not necessarily work in Nanakuli," Hanabusa said.

The state Department of Transportation has identified the worst five sites for all types of traffic accidents on Farrington Highway: at Nanakuli and Haleakala avenues and at Lualualei Homestead, Lualualei Naval and Old Government roads.

According to the DOT, 67 percent of all accidents along the coast from 1990 to 1999 occurred at or near these intersections.

At a public meeting in Wai'anae last month, DOT director Brian Minaai said solutions specific to these high-accident areas need to be developed to reduce the number of incidents. Hanabusa, D-21st (Barbers Point, Makaha), said after the budget is signed by the governor and the money released, the Transportation Department will conduct studies and hold additional public meetings.

The money is the first allocated to address accident sites on Farrington, the main artery through the area and a stretch of road considered one of the state's most dangerous, according to Sen. Cal Kawamoto, chairman of the Senate's Transportation, Military Affairs and Government Operations Committee.

In a community that for years has struggled with loss of life on the road and how to stop it, the money is a ray of hope. Despite community efforts, including speed traps, sign waving and candlelight vigils to remember the victims, the death toll has continued to grow over the years, with 70 deaths since 1990, 12 of those last year.

Many of the fatalities involve either pedestrians or drivers hitting fixed objects such as utility poles.

Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board chairwoman Cynthia Rezentes said discussions on highway safety have been going on for years and the number of traffic fatalities last year may have contributed to getting lawmakers to pay safety improvements.

A memorial sits on Farrington Highway near Ma'ili Point, where a woman was killed in a head-on collision July 29, 2000.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"The fatalities may be causing some additional concentration in this area for traffic safety, but we have been asking for this for quite awhile," Rezentes said.

Hanabusa said another site where accidents may be less frequent but more deadly is Ma'ili Point, where three people died in two head-on crashes last year alone. As a temporary measure, concrete construction barriers may be used to separate traffic along that stretch, she said.

"We were concerned, of course, about the head-on collisions," Hanabusa said. "While they make plans for a permanent kind of fix, in the interim the community may accept those construction barricades so you don't have the cars crossing over," Hanabusa said. "It might not look like the nicest thing, but unfortunately we've had three right there and to ignore it would be almost irresponsible."

Other ideas include possibly creating a separate middle lane for left turns, synchronizing traffic lights and improving sidewalks and crosswalks.

Rezentes said speeding is a major contributor to traffic accidents, especially at Ma'ili Point, which she said should be re-engineered to make it safe for the speed people really drive, not the posted 35 mph.

"With the difficulty of getting anybody to follow the speed limit and the fact that you can't have a police officer there all the time, we should consider engineering," Rezentes said.

According to state statistics, speeding is the main factor in fatal accidents statewide, followed by drivers crossing the center line. Both are a problem in Wai'anae.

Police stepped up enforcement of speeding laws on the Leeward Coast after a fatal July 29 crash last year at Ma'ili Point; 357 speeding citations were issued from July 31 to Aug. 4.

Police Maj. Alan Fujimoto said whenever officers are available, they are given speeding enforcement duty.

While the community waits for the promised safety improvements, there hasn't been a traffic fatality on the Wai'anae Coast this year.