State gave symphony
OK to close road
Question: On Saturday, March 20, about 8:10 p.m., driving Koko Head on Kalanianaole Highway, I encountered a sign saying "Right Lane Closed Ahead." Orange cones were set up for 100 feet or so; then a sign saying, "Road Work Ahead" (or something similar); more cones; and a man with "POLICE" on a shirt or vest where the coning ended abruptly. At that address, there were valet parking attendants. Isn't it illegal to close off a public road for what apparently was a private function? If not, I expect everyone would like to know how they could have this privilege for their next baby luau, graduation party or whatever.
Answer: The private gathering was a fund-raiser for the Honolulu Symphony, which did have a permit to close off the highway.
"We did receive complaints that night (about the coning), and a sergeant was sent to the scene," said Michelle Yu, spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department.
However, the officer verified that the state Department of Transportation had issued a permit allowing the street closure in that area and that a special-duty officer was there to help manage traffic, she said.
The Honolulu Symphony "did the right thing" in having cones and an officer on hand as traffic-control measures, said transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa. However, if there was a "Road Work Ahead" sign, "it was wrong," he said.
In 1998, "Kokua Line" had a similar complaint about Kalanianaole Highway being coned off in front of a home because of a private party.
At that time a Transportation Department spokeswoman said the department "rarely" issues permits for coning off public streets for private purposes. Exceptions, she said, included making room for large construction equipment or when a moving van can't fit into a driveway.
Under the previous state administration, Ishikawa explained, there was a verbal department policy that restricted motorists from stopping along Kalanianaole Highway during the highway widening project.
That widening resulted in the state taking "away a lot of private property (driveways, curbs) from residents living along Kalanianaole," he said. "This is why we're now deciding on issuing permits to residents on a case-by-case basis."
Does that mean any resident tossing a graduation party or baby luau could get a permit to cone off Kalanianaole?
Answering his own question, Ishikawa said, "Probably not," because "the applicant would most likely not have sufficient and qualified staff to deal with traffic control and parking issues," as he said the symphony did.
To Anthony, who witnessed a potential hit-and-run fender-bender of my car at the 7-Eleven store at the corner of Kinau and Piikoi streets. When I returned to my parked car, he informed me that the people responsible for denting my car were leaving the scene. Thanks to him, we were able to detain the culprits. He stayed as long as he possibly could to make certain I was OK. Although the situation was amicably resolved, Anthony, a complete stranger, took the time to assist me in a way that epitomizes the aloha spirit. -- Faith Sodetani
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