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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 13, 2002

South King crosswalk to get signal

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Beatrice Hijirida had just been shopping at Star Market in Mo'ili'ili and was in the crosswalk on South King Street headed home when she heard a car slam on its brakes, screeching to a halt and narrowly missing the 72-year-old.

Yoshiko Arakaki of Waipahu hastens across South King Street at Hausten Street, a midblock crosswalk used by many of Mo'ili'ili's elderly to reach Star Market or the bus stop. A traffic signal should be working at the spot by next year.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

"He stopped right in back of me and said, 'I'm sorry.' Thank God he didn't hit me," Hijirida said.

"I thought about my mother" — who had been hit by a car while crossing School Street years ago and broke a leg, she said.

Hijirida is one of dozens of senior citizens crossing five-lane, one-way South King Street at Hausten Street at a midblock crosswalk to get to the market or to the bus stop on South Beretania.

"The old folks cannot see when crossing the street around the parked cars,"

Hijirida said. "Some of them walk with canes and everything. They got a hard time to walk."

The city is installing a pedestrian-activated traffic signal at the crossing to make it safer, and expects it to be operating by the end of the year.

The city will begin construction on the $77,000 project next month, starting with electrical lines and optics, said city Transportation Director Cheryl Soon.

"This project has been on our antenna screen for quite some time," Soon said. "It's scary watching them try to cross the street. The light will take away some of that uncertainty."

There were 24 pedestrian fatalities on O'ahu in each of the last two years, most of them senior citizens, according to police. Six of last year's victims were struck in a crosswalk, they said.

Sgt. Robert Lung of the HPD Traffic Division said midblock crosswalks without traffic signals, such as the one on South King Street, give users a false sense of security. They are more dangerous than those at street corners.

"As long as they are in a crosswalk, they think no one can hit them," Lung said. "It's like an invisible wall protecting them and they don't have to look. If a vehicle strikes an elderly person, the chances of them surviving is low.

"Mo'ili'ili is basically an elderly community. The Star Market is where they usually shop, and traffic is heavy around there."

The market is surrounded by three busy streets.

Hijirida remembers at least three pedestrian accidents in the area in the last 10 years.

She said the traffic light is needed because seniors will not or cannot walk the extra quarter mile to the nearest light.

E. Rebecca Ryan, executive director of the Mo'ili'ili Community Center, said another light probably would slow traffic on King Street, but it was a compromise the community decided to make.

"The traffic is very heavy," said Ryan, whose center, located near the crosswalk, serves about 1,500 senior clients. "Slowing the traffic is a good thing. I've seen seniors wait for a long, long time for traffic to stop so they can cross the street."

Rep. Scott Saiki, D-20th (Kapahulu, Mo'ili'ili) said he had been getting calls about the problem for years and was glad it was being resolved.

"They feel a traffic light will give them the safety and peace of mind they want when crossing this congested area," Saiki said. "I fully agree with them."

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.