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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 25, 2002

School traffic light plea denied

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KANE'OHE — King Intermediate School will not be getting a traffic light, despite pleas from students and administrators that signals be installed at the campus before a child is hurt or killed.

A city study has concluded that a traffic light is not warranted, said Cheryl Soon, director of Department of Transportation Services. The study is based on eight standard criteria, including traffic volume, history at the intersection, turning traffic and pedestrian activity.

"It didn't meet any of the criteria," Soon said.

The Kane'ohe Neighborhood Board and other advocates were dismayed, but opponents — mainly drivers concerned about the potential impact on traffic — were pleased.

In September, the Kane'ohe Neighborhood Board unanimously supported the installation of a traffic light at the school entrance after students and a vice principal requested it to lessen the danger to students crossing the street after getting off the city bus.

The board submitted a request for $200,000, which was approved for the city's fiscal 2003 budget.

In the meantime, the Kahalu'u Neighborhood Board asked that other options be considered, as residents there saw the signal as another impediment to free-flowing traffic on Kamehameha Highway, one of two main arteries from Windward O'ahu to the city.

"It's the objection of the drivers that have to wait behind the city bus that killed the light, basically — and that's a traffic concern, not a health and safety concern," said Roy Yanagihara, Kane'ohe Neighborhood Board chairman, who believes safety concerns usually should override traffic concerns.

Yanagihara said testimony from students and the vice principal, and the number of near-misses and pedestrian accidents at the school, warranted a signal.

"One day a Kahalu'u student will get run over, and it will be by a Kahalu'u driver," he said.

John Michael Piper, co-chairman of the Kahalu'u board's Transportation Committee, said he was pleased with the city's decision.

Piper is working with the city to come up with other solutions, such as bus pull-outs.

Because the danger is concentrated in the 90 minutes in the morning and afternoon when school opens and closes, Piper questioned whether a light was appropriate. Having the school monitor students would be a better solution, he said. "It's a supervision issue, and DOE is not very responsive to it."

The school did hire a police officer at the beginning of this school year and last, for about two weeks, because there wasn't money for more, said school vice principal Patrick Macy.

The school also has tried to warn students, but it's not enough, Macy said. Morning and afternoon traffic is hectic. When the city bus disgorges passengers, students tend to walk across the street, which is dangerous in itself, Macy said. Then some drivers try to go around the students rather than giving them the right of way.

The school security force, meanwhile, is responsible for the whole campus, and must patrol an area that includes the back of the school, Macy said.

The school has no money for traffic monitors, he said.

Macy said he was disappointed by the decision and would try to document the problem and find a solution.

"Anybody can see it's a potentially dangerous situation for our kids," he said. "I hope it doesn't take a serious incident to make it a priority."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.