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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 23, 2010

No soap is 1 thing, but no lights?


By Lee Cataluna

Remember when Colt Brennan was sad because there was no soap in the University of Hawai'i Athletic Department showers?

Everybody shook their heads and said it was a darned shame. Surely in Hawai'i people can expect to live better than that.

Looking back, those were the good old days. Now there are no lights on long stretches of O'ahu freeway haven't been for years and unlike the Athletic Department's soap situation, the people affected can't do much about it. Drivers can't bring their own overhead lighting the way an athlete can bring his own Old Spice body wash.

The way the situation has played out, those nefarious copper thieves are no longer the main problem. Though their crimes were the inciting incident, the state budget crunch is now the culprit for the continued darkness. Why spend money the state doesn't have to put back wires that might get stolen again?

Is that Third World or what, yeah? Roads in Haiti and Iraq are getting fixed but folks are driving to Mililani in the dark.

Though the longest stretches of roadway affected by the dead streetlights aren't designated "urban" and, thus, are not legally mandated to be lit, the issue is a matter of semantics, not realistic needs.

Maybe a two-lane mauka road leading to four houses and a water tank on Kaua'i doesn't need streetlights. Maybe an Upcountry lane on Maui between flower farms doesn't need streetlights. Perhaps there are dozens of examples of truly rural roads where streetlights could be considered optional, but H-2 Freeway between Waipahu and Wahiawā isn't one of those places.

The word "freeway" should be a big hint. There are lovely country drives where streetlights would absolutely ruin the experience and bother the few neighbors and their pet chickens. The eight-lane speed zone near Kīpapa Gulch isn't one of them.

Both H-1 Freeway between Waikele and Kapolei and H-2 between Waipahu and Wahiawā are the passageways hard-working commuters take every day to get to their jobs in town. For many families, driving home in the dark to the North Shore or to the Leeward Coast with the kids sleeping in the back seat is an every-night ordeal. With money so tight, you'd think streetlights would make it to the list of essentials.

They seem "need-to-have" rather than "nice-to-have."

All it will take is one terrible crash and the state will have to pay millions of dollars to settle a lawsuit with grieving families who will sob on the courthouse steps about how the road was dark and that's why their loved ones died.

But here we are, no soap, no lights, no money.

Drive safe.