Students walk in peril in Kapa’a

KAPA’A — Kapa’a resident Jerome “The Shadow” Freitas smiles and frowns whenever he drives through the round-about at the intersection of ‘Olohena Road and the Kapa’a bypass road.

Freitas, who travels the island to identify unsafe conditions he believes government officials can and should correct, smiles because he believes the roundabout will significantly improve traffic flow around parts of Kapa’a.

But he frowns because he doesn’t believe state Department of Transportation Highways Division leaders showed enough foresight when they let the project move forward without the installation of sidewalks and crosswalks.

Many youths walk through and around the roundabout to get to and from Kapa’a Middle School, located up the block from the traffic-control structure, Freitas said.

“Seniors (elderly residents) who live by the housing project walk through here,” Freitas said. “What about them?”

The absence of crosswalks and sidewalks could result in pedestrian accidents and fatalities, creating unnecessary sorrow for surviving family members and costly litigation for the state government, he said.

A DOT official said Freitas’ concerns are well taken, that he should be patient, that what he has proposed is in the works, and that he shouldn’t fret.

After apparently receiving recommendations for such improvements from members of the public, DOT officials have been working on the proposed improvements for some time.

If Koga Engineering leaders reach an agreement with DOT officials on the cost of the improvements, government officials will issue an order to proceed with the work, a state DOT spokesperson said.

The proposed construction work is tied to a $3.7-million state contract won by leaders of Koga Engineering to build the roundabout, and to extend the temporary Kapa’a bypass road along an old cane-haul road mauka of Kapa’a New Park leading to the north end of Kapa’a town. The new road measures about eight-tenths of a mile.

Because DOT officials are concerned about congestion at the intersection of Kawaihau Road and Kuhio Highway by the northern edge of Kapa’a town, they decided to make the bypass extension a one-way, southbound-only route.

DOT officials have forwarded a change order to Koga Engineering leaders to put in side-walks and crosswalks around the roundabout, a state DOT spokesperson said.

Freitas said a dire need exists for crosswalks and sidewalks. Many children from neighbor-hoods located around the round-about walk through it to get to the Kapa’a New Park, and to beaches in East Kaua’i, he said.

“Kaua’i has grown, and there is more traffic at the round-about now,” Freitas said. “You try (to get around the round-about) afternoon time. It is busy. People don’t care (about slowing down).”

Crosswalks by the round-about would help Kapa’a Middle School students getting off school in the afternoon, Freitas said.

The students walk down ‘Olohena Road to get to the intersection of ‘Olohena Road and the Kapa’a bypass road. But after getting off a stairway at the intersection, they have difficulty getting across Malu Road safely because no crosswalk spans the road, Freitas said.

“We are talking about their safety,” he said. “That is the thing I care about.”

He said he has called Steve Kyono, who heads the DOT’s Highway Division on Kaua’i, about his concerns, and “he told me they would check into it.” Kyono was not immediately available for comment yesterday.

In his travels around the island, Freitas said he has found scores of government structures and facilities on Kaua’i that need fixing.

He said that, while government officials may cite lack of funds or resources to correct problems, he steadfastly believes “they got the money,” and that the projects he wants fixed are “doable.”

“I think the roundabout is a good idea, but the other things related to safety got to be put in, for the sake of the community,” Freitas said.


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