New traffic center to help response times
The city released preliminary design plans for the Alapai Joint Traffic Management Center and Bus Transit Center yesterday -- a presentation low on excitement but filled with promises of smoother commutes for Honolulu drivers.
The new building at the corner of King and Alapai streets will allow the city to consolidate its traffic control center and its emergency operations center into one place near the Honolulu Police Department's headquarters.
"It's probably one of the most underutilized sites in Honolulu," said Roy Nihei, of Group 70 Architects, the company designing the project. "Now is the time to act on it and use it."
COURTESY OF GROUP 70 INTERNATIONAL INC.
This artist's rendering shows the planned site for the Alapai Joint Traffic Management Center. CLICK FOR LARGE
The traffic management center would improve response times to crashes and to clear roadways of debris, provide information to motorists about alternate routes, and offer better traffic management, according to the presentation.
Jan Bappee, a retired nurse and bus rider and one of the few people who attended the meeting, said she liked what she heard.
The consolidated center would help eliminate the weakest link in emergency communication because departments would be able to double-check each other, she said.
"I'm glad I came, just to know that things will get better," Bappee said.
Planning officials hope to begin construction on the building in 2009.
Officials plan to complete an environmental assessment by August, allowing the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization to release federal funds.
The Department of Transportation Services, Honolulu Police and Fire departments, Emergency Medical Services, Oahu Civil Defense, state Department of Transportation, Department of Information and Technology, and the Oahu Transit Authority are expected to have offices in the building.
"This building will be unique in the nation" because of all the government agencies using it, Nihei said.
Currently, the different emergency divisions that will use the traffic management center have no room for growth and are separated, hampering coordination, Nihei said.
Restrooms and shelter will be included in the bus transit development.
Ti Fukumitsu, chief of the city Traffic Signals and Technology Division, which is developing the federally funded project, would not disclose the cost of the building, but he said it would be higher than normal for comparable structures because it must meet tougher environmental standards, including protection from hurricanes, and must include additional security for homeland defense. The building is not in a tsunami zone.
The city, which had been considering the center for three years, also is planning to install 20 more cameras for traffic management in Kaneohe, with plans to expand to Kailua and west of Kapolei, Fukumitsu said.
"The goal is to reduce the response time of traffic incidents (and natural disasters) and coordinate with other agencies efficiently," he said.
The challenge, Fukumitsu said, will be keeping the transit center operating during construction.