A program offering free roadside help would
hurt business, a company contends
State officials are working with a local towing company to resolve a dispute that has delayed indefinitely the Transportation Department's $3 million project to offer free roadside assistance to Oahu motorists.
"Until we resolve this protest, we can't move forward," said department spokesman Scott Ishikawa.
The protest was filed by Stoneridge Recoveries, which says it already provides such services under a contract with the city and that the new program would take away up to 80 percent of its business.
"Stoneridge will sustain significant damage if you proceed as planned," the March 22 letter to the Transportation Department states.
Gov. Linda Lingle announced the federally funded Freeway Service Patrol project in December as part of the state's overall efforts to ease congestion on Oahu's freeways by clearing stalled cars and minor accidents as quickly as possible.
Transportation officials estimate that for every minute a stalled car or accident blocks a lane, a 10-minute backlog ensues for traffic behind it.
The program ultimately would have six trucks offering services such as towing, fueling, fixing flat tires, jump-starting dead batteries, providing coolant, offering free emergency phone service and, in the case of minor accidents, providing basic first aid and clearing debris.
Ishikawa said the state wanted to have the first phase of the project running in October and was soliciting bids from service providers when they received the protest from Stoneridge.
Under a five-year contract signed in 2002, Stoneridge pays the city $8,900 per month for the exclusive right to provide towing for the Honolulu Police Department. Its costs are recouped through charges to motorists who use the service.
Mark Kawata, an attorney for Stoneridge, did not return a telephone message left by the Star-Bulletin yesterday. He previously said the state should have looked at the situation more closely before moving ahead with soliciting bids.
The letter asks the state to put off the project until Stoneridge's contract with the city expires in July 2007.
Ishikawa said the department is attempting to resolve the situation without going to court.
"We're going to try to sit down and try to resolve this protest issue and look at our options," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.