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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Psychology at work on Pali

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer

Mike Leidemann is the Advertiser's transportation writer. Reach him at 525-5460 or mleidemann@honolulu advertiser.com

They have tried everything to slow traffic on the Pali Highway through the Nu'uanu residential neighborhood: big orange warning signs, saturation police patrols, even a flashing readout that tells people how fast they're going.

Nothing much has helped. So now it's time for a new approach — psychological warfare.

Many of the new traffic-calming measures to be presented to residents this week are designed to trick drivers into slowing down.

The idea is to remind them, almost subliminally, that they are passing through one of Honolulu's oldest neighborhood, one filled with elderly residents.

The proposals, which will be unveiled tomorrow night in a meeting at St. Stephen's Church along the highway, were developed by the Pali Highway Safety Task Force, a group formed in 1999 after several pedestrians were killed or seriously injured trying to cross the highway between Waokanaka and Wyllie streets.

Those streets mark the mauka and makai boundaries of the neighborhood, where fast drivers just passing through and slow-paced pedestrians make for a dangerous mix.

Don't look for dramatic changes, like the suggestion from one resident who wanted the whole highway put below ground to allow local traffic to cross overhead.

That's just isn't in the financial cards.

Instead, planners are going to use more greenery to keep the neighborhood safe. A major part of the plan is to create landscaped, gateway mini-parks, with small signs that say Nu'uanu, at either end of the dangerous 1.3-mile stretch of six-lane road and to put more plantings in the median strip.

So how does planting trees and shrubs help?

"The landscaped parks will remind people they are in a residential neighborhood," said Westley Chun, an engineer who assisted the task force. "It will look less like a highway, so hopefully they'll slow down."

The median strip plantings will fool people, too. The idea is to get drivers thinking they are on a smaller three-lane road, instead of a six-lane freeway. "It's another psychological message," Chun said.

Other planned improvements include a realignment of traffic lights, crosswalks, driveways and highway turnaround lanes, he said.

"The normal turnaround on any engineering project is eight years from conception to finish," Chun said. "By that measure, we're way ahead of ourselves."