Resident action slows speeders

Property owners on Weke Road in Hanalei have won a battle to halt car-racing they say has terrorized their neighborhood for four years.

Partly responding to a petition signed by more than 50 property owners, the Kaua‘i County Council Parks and Public Works Committee yesterday approved a resolution to conduct a traffic-calming pilot study, install four additional speed tables on the road, reduce the speed limit on Weke Road from 25 mph to 20 mph and install three stop signs at the intersection of Weke and Aku roads.

The action by the council committee at the historic County Building can prevent a high-speed accident or a fatality, said representatives for the homeowners.

Some motorists have reached speeds of up to 70 mph, knocked down fencing and intimidated pedestrians. The speeding has triggered fights between homeowners and motorists.

“We are glad (the council) took action, but we still have to wait (for approval of the measure by the full council at an upcoming meeting),” said Richard Parks, a Weke Road resident who has led the charge for action by the council.

Although criticized for being slow in its actions, the council wanted a thorough review of the problem and assessment of the options before taking action.

The trouble spot runs three-quarters of a mile eastward from the intersection of Weke Road and Aku Road to the Hanalei River boat ramp.

Weke Road is a county road that runs parallel to parts of Hanalei Bay, a popular destination for residents and visitors.

Residents said the county’s installation of one speed table on Weke Road in front of the Hanalei Pavilion has played a key role in curbing speeding thus far.

Patsy Sheehan said she has five grandchildren under the age of five who use Weke Road to get to and from the beach, and she worries one of them might get injured in a speeding accident.

“We are trying to slow everyone down because that is the pace of Hanalei,” she said.

Weke Road property owner Candy La Cour said the lone speed table has worked, but the problem is that motorists speed up once they get past it. “It is good for a block at the most,” she said.

Putting in four other speed tables will produce better results, she and others predicted.

The speed tables are about 22 feet wide and 14 feet in depth, and rise about three inches from the ground.

County officials bought all five speed tables in anticipation of implementing the pilot project on Weke Road.

Carl Imparato, who lives in Hanalei town but jogs and rides his bicycle on Weke Road, said the county needs to do something about the speeding before someone dies or gets injured in a vehicular accident.

In written testimony, he said the council is seemingly trying to talk itself out of installing more speed tables.

Some council members are worried the speed tables could create liability problems. Others are concerned about the high cost of putting speed tables in more county neighborhoods.

But the county should have them installed wherever they are needed, for safety reasons, Imparato said.

Council Chairman Kaipo Asing said people would be mistaken if they thought the council has not done anything or enough to resolve speeding on Weke Road or has not looked for ways to curb speeding elsewhere on Kaua’i.

“I want you to know that councilman Rapozo and myself met with the group (a committee of Weke Road residents) and we had Chief Lum here .”

Asing said he informed Lum the council “would fund a program specifically for a task force to work on that problem” without using on-duty Kaua‘i police officers.

Imparato said he liked the motivation behind the council efforts but also wanted results.

La Cour and others in the audience said police have curbed speeding on Weke Road through speed traps and police patrols.

But the speeding starts up again when the speed trap programs are completed or when police officers leave the scene after investigating a speeding incident, audience members said.

Few blamed the police for not doing more, realizing there exists a manpower shortage in the police department.

“Police are wonderful and they respond in a timely manner,” La Cour said.

In the absence of police officers on the road, the speed tables served as “silent police officers,” La Cour said.

More speed tables have to be installed to prevent speeding, mostly by young drivers, she said.

“We have a lot of young people (who speed up and down Weke Road at all hours of the day), and they come down (to Black Pot Park) to party,” La Cour said.

“Tourists are not the problem. It is the local people (who are in a hurry to go surfing in Hanalei Bay or go to the beach to surf).”

The speed tables will not significantly slow down the response time of emergency vehicles, Parks and Imparato contended.

Imparato said if the other four speed tables were installed and emergency vehicles traveled no more than 20 mph over them, rescue personnel would lose no more than 40 seconds in responding to an emergency.

Basing his findings on a manual called “Traffic Calming State of the Practice,” produced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the Institute of Traffic Engineers, Parks said the time lost would be even less.

He noted an emergency vehicle would lose only 2.9 seconds in response time by going over a speed hump, whose designs are more radical than that of speed traps.

“It takes more time to go over a speed hump than a speed table,” he said. “So you can cut down even more lost time through the use of a speed table.”

Parks also said more motorists would stop speeding on Weke Road if police officers issued tickets to violators.

Parks said police officers have issued warnings to motorists who have exceeded the 25 mph speed limit, sometimes by as much as 25 mph.

Under such circumstances, a citation should be mandatory, Parks said.

“The officers are trained not to give tickets for speeding that is 10 miles over the speed limit,” Parks said after the meeting. “It’s true, that is what they said in testimony.”

Saying he would wager a “paycheck,” Parks contended police issued no speeding citations for infractions on Weke Road over the last six months. No police officers responded to the claim.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com.

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