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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Pali monitors turned on to turn off urge to speed

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer

The state yesterday activated two permanent speed indicators on Pali Highway, one of the final elements in a three-year effort to slow traffic through a dangerous stretch of Nu'uanu.

Drivers were notching up numbers like this yesterday. If they don't slow down, the state will call for more police to make them do so.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

The 7-foot-tall, solar-powered, $17,650 devices are the first of their kind in the state, replacing portable ones mounted on trailers, said Department of Transportation Director Rod Haraga.

"We've been seeing people driving anywhere from 40 to 60 mph in this area," Haraga said. "This is another way to remind them to slow down."

The speed limit in the residential neighborhood is 35 mph. One truck passing the area while DOT workers were still present yesterday registered 70 mph on the bright-yellow readout.

The speed indicators, which use radar to scan three lanes of highway and flash the highest speed of passing cars, are part of a $397,925 project to reduce accidents in Nu'uanu.

Other aspects of the project included installing lime-green reflective signs near crosswalks, widening stop bars for vehicles at crosswalks, closing one intersection and several median openings, and installing rumble strips on highway areas approaching Nu'uanu.

The rumble strips touched off complaints earlier this month from residents who found them too noisy and from drivers who said they slowed traffic too much and damaged cars. DOT quickly lowered the height of the rumble strips from 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch, quieting most of the complaints from drivers.

Yesterday, Haraga announced that a DOT survey had determined the noise caused by the rumble strips to be within acceptable federal and state limits.

"We put out monitors along the way and found that most of the readings were in the 66- to 68-decibel range," Haraga said, noting that levels higher than 70 are considered unacceptable.

The highest readings were recorded at one house along the highway several hundred feet from the rumble strips, according to Haraga, who said: "In fact, we think most of the noise comes not from the rumble strips but from buses and trucks when they accelerate to go up the hill."

Joseph Magaldi, head of the Nu'uanu Neighborhood Board, said the community is generally pleased by the changes.

"We're finally bringing back the neighborhood feeling to the neighborhood," he said. "We're making it safe to walk around once again."

DOT statistics show there were 170 major accidents, including three fatalities, on Pali Highway between Wyllie and Waokanaka streets from 1997 to 2001. Thirteen of them involved excessive speed; 117 involved inattention to driving.

In a separate project, the city is landscaping the highway's medial strip in Nu'uanu and building rock-wall signs near both ends of the residential area to remind drivers they are approaching a pedestrian area.

The new speed indicators are on the righthand shoulder of the town-bound lanes just mauka of Waokanaka Street and in the medium strip, facing Kailua-bound traffic, near the Philippines Consulate.

For drivers who can't regulate themselves even with the speed indicators, there's one more element to the plan: more police presence.

"We're telling people: Look out, now. We're definitely going to start adding more enforcement," Haraga said.

If the new speed indicators work as well as advertised, they are likely to start showing up elsewhere around the state, according to DOT spokesman Scott Ishikawa, who said: "They might be especially useful in school zones."