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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 14, 2002

Salt Lake roundabout to be tested first

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

SALT LAKE — At the request of the local neighborhood board, the city will test a temporary "roundabout" at the intersection of Ala Napunani and Likini Street before going ahead with a permanent traffic-calming configuration.

The Aliamanu/Salt Lake/Foster Village Neighborhood Board voted unanimously to request that the city paint temporary lane markings and use removable materials for a roundabout at the intersection near Moanalua High School.

The community had asked for safety features to protect students crossing the four-lane Ala Napunani, but board members were concerned that the roundabout would slow traffic too much.

A roundabout directs traffic around a raised island in a counterclockwise direction. Drivers leave the circle by turning right onto the street they choose. Traffic slows but doesn't stop because no left turns are possible.

At Thursday's board meeting, more than 50 people debated the issue of whether a roundabout was needed. A primary concern was whether the roundabout will create traffic backlogs along Salt Lake Boulevard.

Brent Matsumoto, a resident of the area, questioned whether there is ever an instance when traffic is not backed up by "roadwork coning projects" that reduce the number of usable lanes.

But others supported the roundabout, saying the community had approved the concept in 2000. The city completed design work for the roundabout, putting the $600,000 project out to bid in January.

Moanalua High principal Darrel Galera recalled when school officials requested traffic safety measures 20 years ago to help students crossing nearby intersections.

"Let's try it and see if it helps," Galera said. "It sounded like the best solution at the time (in 2000)."

Howard Shima, who heads the neighborhood board's transportation committee, said he opposed the roundabout and wanted a traffic signal instead at the intersection of Ala Napunani and Ala 'Ilima. But other board members, feeling that cancellation would be premature, wanted to give the project a three-month test.

"It may be an inconvenience for drivers, but it will make things safer," said board member Chester Koga.

Because of the board's request to have the roundabout operating during the school year to study traffic flow, city traffic engineer Michael

Oshiro said the temporary roundabout would probably be ready sometime in the fall.

That would push back construction of the permanent roundabout, if it is approved by the neighborhood board, until summer 2003.

Eight-foot-wide medians also would be placed along Ala Napunani near the intersection to create save havens for pedestrians using the crosswalks, Oshiro said.

City traffic officials at the meeting admitted that the new roundabout would be slightly different than others installed in Salt Lake and Makiki, since it would converge four lanes of Ala Napunani traffic at that particular intersection, rather than two lanes of traffic at other locations.

Neighborhood board chairman Grant Tanimoto, explaining his position, said: "I think roundabouts work in certain instances; the current one by Salt Lake Elementary is perfect. But if we're going to be the guinea pig for this bigger roundabout, we want to make sure it works first."

Reach Scott Ishikawa at sishikawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2429.