Input sought on pedestrian plan; areas of concern, solutions identified

LIHU‘E — Concerned citizens have until Friday to share their thoughts on a statewide plan to improve pedestrian safety and mobility along Hawai‘i roads.

The Draft Statewide Pedestrian Master Plan, released last month, identifies six areas of concern on Kaua‘i. The top priority is a portion of Kuhio Highway between Hanama‘ulu and Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Lihu‘e, where there are “no sidewalks, eroding sections of sidewalks, and a bridge with narrow shoulders.”

The plan also notes that it is difficult for pedestrians to cross the highway in this area because of the lack of crosswalks, and “vehicles have been observed speeding along this section of the highway.”

Perhaps one of the most harrowing sections of this area is the Hanama‘ulu Bridge.  Pedestrians who cross it using the narrow sidewalk risk their lives each time, as JoAnn Yukimura put it at a Kaua‘i County Council meeting earlier this year.

The only other option Hanama‘ulu residents used to have to get to Lihu‘e and vice versa was the Kapaia Swinging Bridge. But the decaying structure was shut down by the administration in 2006 for safety reasons and its future is uncertain.

“This plan will provide a solid foundation towards re-conceptualizing our highways and road systems to include an improved focus on pedestrian safety and mobility,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie says in the 92-page document’s opening pages.

The draft plan identifies two other areas in Lihu‘e, one in Kapa‘a, one in Hanalei and another in Kalaheo.

In Lihu‘e, along Kuhio Highway south of Wilcox Memorial Hospital, pedestrians walk along grass buffers.

A drainage swale and overgrown landscape block passage. Lack of crosswalks in this area also limit safe options, according to the plan.

On Rice Street, near Nawiliwili Harbor, the Nawiliwili Bridge does not appear to have enough room for pedestrian facilities, according to the draft. Also, pedestrians have to walk on paved shoulders between the harbor and the Marriott Resort.

In Kalaheo, at the intersection of Kaumuali‘i Highway and Papalina Road, there were four accidents registered between 2004 and 2008. Three of these involved pedestrians and all happened on a clear day during daytime.

At the north end of Kapa‘a, three roads — Cane Haul, Haua‘ala and Kawaihau — intersect with Kuhio Highway within a 250-foot stretch, creating a dangerous situation for pedestrians who must walk across two-way traffic without the visibility of a marked crossing.

It is at this juncture that the county plans to build a spur from the Kapa‘a shared-use path, leading up to Gore Park near Mahelona Hospital.

The spur design calls for a sidewalk in that area. This has been routinely contested at council meetings by at least one member of the public who says it is an unsafe place to put a sidewalk.

In Hanalei, “as mentioned in the Kuhio Highway Historic Roadway Corridor Plan 2005, there is a perceived need to create a pedestrian-friendly environment” through town. The draft plan calls for pedestrian-oriented improvements between Aku Road and Hanalei Dolphin Center, where there are commercial and public facilities.

Potential solutions

The draft plan was not just about identifying areas of concern, but proposing solutions to those problems, prioritizing projects and offering funding strategies, models of performance measures and monitoring.

In the area between Hanama‘ulu and Lihu‘e, the plan proposes to “improve pedestrian connections by replacing eroded sidewalks and closing sidewalk gaps on Kuhio Highway from Wilcox Memorial Hospital to Hanama‘ulu Road.”

In addition to being ranked as the top priority on Kaua‘i, this area was ranked seventh statewide in the list of 31 project priorities in the draft plan.

“This prioritization is meant to be used when seeking new sources of funding,” the draft plan states.

Despite mentioning the dangerous crossing of Hanama‘ulu bridge, nothing was offered to address it.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. earlier this year made clear he would not pursue restoring the Kapaia bridge at the multi-million-dollar price tag Kai Hawai‘i, a Honolulu-based consultant, gave the administration.

In other parts of Lihu‘e, a sidewalk construction is being proposed to close a gap on Kuhio Highway at Ehiku Street near Walmart. This was ranked 20th statewide in the priority list.

In Nawiliwili a sidewalk or walkway connection from the bridge to the shopping center and the Marriott Resort is being proposed. This was ranked the 18th priority statewide.

In Kalaheo the proposed solution is installing pedestrian countdown timers and advanced pedestrian warning signs. This was ranked 23rd statewide.

In Hanalei the draft plan proposes a “separated pedestrian facility” along the highway, from the post office to the trade center. This was ranked 30th statewide in the priority list.

In Kapa‘a the construction of access to and from the communities on the mauka side of the highway to the multi-use path along the coast is the solution the draft plan proposes. This area is listed last of all 31 projects statewide.

Integration

“The next step for the prioritized project list is integration into a variety of HDOT programs,” the draft plan states. “As the projects are programmed and budgeted, they move into the project delivery stage.”

During this stage, a more thorough engineering analysis is conducted on the feasibility and an environmental assessment is prepared.

“If any of the projects, regardless of ranking, are co-located with other roadway improvement projects, they may be implemented more quickly than others that may be higher on the priority list,” the draft plan states.

All the input on the draft plan was gathered from a six-member Specialty Resources team comprised of state government officials; a 19-member Citizen Advisory Committee, which included Get Fit Kaua‘i’s Esti Grinpas; a Technical Advisory Committee consisting of 29 members, including six members from Kaua‘i (Ray McCormick from HDOT Kaua‘i District, County Engineer Larry Dill, former County Engineer Donald Fujimoto, County Long-Range Planner Marie Williams, County Transportation Agency Director Celia Mahioka and former County Transportation Agency Director Janine Rapozo).

The project team, TAC and CAC recommended the endorsement of two programs to support the plan: Walk Wise Hawai‘i and Safe Routes to School. In addition to those, the project team, TAC and CAC urged continued enforcement of pedestrian safety laws by the county police departments.

Comments on the draft plan are being accepted until Friday.

Comments can be sent by visiting www.hawaiipedplan.com and clicking on the “comment” link on the top right corner of the web page.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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