Windward Oahu highways now monitored with 18 new cameras
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
Seven more miles of O'ahu roads are now under the watch of traffic monitors — both human and electronic — after city officials yesterday activated 18 new cameras on the Windward side's Kamehameha and Kahekili highways.
Like the 154 other cameras that first began running on O'ahu in 1995, none of the new cameras will be used for law enforcement or to help lawyers or insurance companies with claims for traffic accidents, said Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for the city's Department of Transportation Services.
Storing all of the traffic footage would be a logistical nightmare, Ishikawa said, and city officials long ago decided the cameras would only be used for real-time traffic monitoring and not as evidence in criminal or civil cases.
"The city decided that the cameras would not be used to tape or record any criminal activity or for litigation," Ishikawa said. "There were privacy concerns brought up when they were first installed."
But the cameras are designed to help ease the flow of traffic all across the island because engineers monitoring the cameras in the city's traffic management center can adjust traffic signals accordingly.
Traffic engineer Warren Yamamoto yesterday manipulated a keyboard and joystick in the city's traffic management center to swing the new cameras around a 360-degree view to show real-time images of Kamehameha and Kahekili highways.
"Wherever there's a traffic signal, we have a camera," Yamamoto said. "And we can mitigate traffic situations, if necessary."
The new cameras became operational yesterday along Kamehameha Highway between the H-3 Freeway interchange and Hālaulani Street near King Intermediate School; and on Kahekili Highway between Likelike Highway and Ha'ikū Road.
Eventually, morning and rush-hour images from the cameras will be posted on the city's traffic website and aired on 'Ōlelo's public access channel.
Sometime next year, city officials also hope to continue expanding traffic cameras across O'ahu to include Kapolei, followed by Kailua, Ishikawa said.
But yesterday, Windward residents such as Bernie and Joseph Panoncial of Waiāhole Valley welcomed anything that would ease congestion along Kamehameha and Kahekili highways.
Joseph Panoncial, a Vietnam War veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, has 8 a.m. appointments at Tripler Army Medical Center and has to leave home by 5:55 a.m. to get across the island in time.
"One of the things my husband goes to Tripler for is road rage," his wife said. "He has anger management issues with the traffic. And traffic has definitely gotten worse."
John Goody of Kahalu'u has seen a 2-mile stretch of Kahekili Highway back up in the morning as Windward commuters try to get to town.
It can take as long as 15 minutes by car just to navigate through four traffic lights alone, Goody said.
"On my bike, I can do it in five minutes," he said.
If new traffic cameras can help travel managers unclog the snarl, Goody said, "That's great. It seems like a smart thing to do."
Mayor Mufi Hannemann yesterday said the new cameras were a response to the "many requests from Windward residents for traffic cameras on their side of the island."
"Not only will the cameras provide up-to-date traffic information for drivers, but while monitoring major accidents or delays, our city staff can adjust the traffic lights to help traffic flow more smoothly," Hannemann said in a statement.
The entire $1.75 million cost for the cameras is covered by federal funds, Ishikawa said.
And the Windward project was only made possible because the state Department of Transportation let city officials tap into their fiber optic cables used by the DOT's traffic control center in the H-3 tunnel.
"If it wasn't for the DOT," Ishikawa said, "we wouldn't be able to put cameras on the Windward side."
But for drivers, Hannemann said, "a city road or state road does not matter since they are all connected. The cameras will help us provide timely information to our drivers to ensure them a safe and quick commute."