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Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Flashing lights,
signs don’t slow
Pali traffic

They do not get drivers'
attention on the dangerous
highway, pedestrians say

By Treena Shapiro


Day-glo yellow signs and flashing amber lights on the Pali Highway are not catching motorists' attention, pedestrians say.

At Jack Lane, amber lights outlining the crosswalk across the Pali are barely visible in daylight, and even a person standing in the middle of the road may not be enough to persuade drivers to stop or even slow down, according to pedestrians.

Nuuanu resident Sharon Amimoto managed to stop a car coming in the first lane of the highway yesterday afternoon, but had to wait until several cars whizzed by in the second and third lanes before she could continue crossing to the median of the six-lane highway.

Amimoto, 49, who crosses the highway daily to get to and from the bus stop, said she's never come close to being hit, but it's because she's able to move quickly. "I get across as fast as I can," she said. "I don't want to linger inside the crosswalk."

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Codie Cooke, 81, at Pali Highway near Jack Lane, shows
how she stops traffic when crossing the highway. Cooke
walks 14 miles daily, including a stretch along the highway.

Since 1994, five pedestrians have been killed and 200 more have been injured trying to get across the highway. In June 1999, a 90-year-old woman was killed by a motorist as she crossed the street at Jack Lane. Last December, an 80-year-old man was seriously injured crossing at the same intersection.

Because the highway runs through a 1.3-mile stretch of residential Nuuanu, a concentration of cars and pedestrians in that area makes crossing the highway dangerous.

On Monday, the state Transportation Department will move ahead with plans to erect a traffic signal at the Jack Lane intersection. The $601,846 project will extend left turn lanes on the highway, build wheelchair ramps and remove existing crosswalk and warning lights at Niolopa Street.

The flashing amber lights were installed in March as an interim measure to improve pedestrian safety.

A police sergeant at the Kalihi substation said that there were two complaints that cars weren't slowing down right after the lights were installed, but that there haven't been any since.

Traffic overall has slowed noticeably on the Pali, although about 10 percent of motorists still continue to speed, he said.

But community awareness and an increase in traffic citations may have more to do with the slowdown than the proliferation of signs and the flashing lights. Those who drive over the Pali twice a day tend to be oblivious to the signs, he said.

To Codie Cooke, 81, the yellow signs serve more as an eyesore than a deterrent to speeders.

"I think there are darn too many signs, and I don't think they do a bit of good," she said. "The cars are still screeching by."

Cooke, who lives near Iolani School, walks 14 miles a day, including a stretch of the Pali Highway to get to Oahu Country Club.

She doesn't always cross on the highway, but when she does, she said, "I make sure I'm in the clear. But then I don't know when they're coming up behind me."

"Boy, you keep your fingers crossed," she said.

Installation of the traffic light is expected to last 60 to 90 days. One lane of the highway may be closed during work hours from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

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