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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, August 9, 2000

Assault of asphalt
is our fault

AN official orange sign on the side of the highway said simply "End Road Work," to which I exclaimed, "Hallelujah!"

Unfortunately, the sign was not expressing the combined prayers of thousands of Oahu commuters, that the 1,423 road construction projects currently under way come to an end. It was merely telling me that I was leaving the current stretch of orange traffic cones and torn up asphalt constituting Road Work Project No. 1,372. A few hundred yards earlier was a sign that read "Begin Road Work," which makes you feel like you should get out of your car and pick up a shovel.

And maybe we should. God knows, life is not going to be bearable on the roadways until all this construction insanity is over. Maybe if everyone took a break from their jobs and pitched in, we could complete all the repair work in a couple of weeks.

Being a conspiracy buff, I used to think that rampant road construction was just a ploy by iron manufacturers to convert all of Honolulu's roads into metal plates. The tire manufactures were also in on the plot, seeing as how driving on those metal plates decreases the life expectancy of a tire by about half. But then, I thought, kindly old Lex Brodie, Godfather of Automobile Tiredom, wouldn't allow tire dealers to engage in such an evil enterprise. Although he is retired, his name is still a giant in the tire world. You think of rubber, you think of Lex. Thank you ... very much.

But we have to face the facts. Every single road on the island is either under repair or needs repair. There is one small lane in Hawaii Kai, a 40-foot-long cul-de-sac that has fresh, clean asphalt, but it has been taken over by 83 skateboard and scooter riders.

(Hmmmm. Maybe it's the scooter manufacturers who are behind the conspiracy. Right now, you can get to work faster on one of those little silver push scooters than you can in a Lamborghini.)

An official from the state Transportation Department said on TV that the reason all the roads are being repaired at once is to save time. Doing it this way will take only two years while staggering the projects would take 10.

That DOT spokesfolks can still make such proclamations with a straight face is amazing. Road construction projects will never end. Certain highways on the island have been under construction and repair since the attack on Pearl Harbor. Children of road workers have grown up, gone to college to study the advanced installation of large metal highway plates and returned, completed their careers, retired and seen their grandchildren out on the side of the road stopping traffic with little orange flags. Generations of families dressed in orange vests have stood on roadsides, staring vacantly into large pits while a single laborer fussed with a nasty looking pipe the size of missile silo.

This nightmare will not end in two years. It will not end in 10 years. We have to realize that for the rest of our lives, our cars will be forced to trundle over minefields of temporary asphalt patches; we will inch through intersections covered with more iron than the USS Enterprise; we will watch with unbridled jealousy as 93-year-old women with orthopedic walkers whiz by us on sidewalks; and we will be at the mercy of 17-year-old high school dropouts, who by merely holding up their hands can stop entire lines of cars for hours at a time.

The sign may say "End Road Work," but we never will.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to

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