Crosswalk probe may last till '08, state says
Crosswalk study pitched in Senate
A proposal to study intersections and determine where crossing times are insufficient for elderly and disabled pedestrians would cost about $1 million and likely would not be ready until the end of 2008, state officials said.
With six pedestrian fatalities already this year, supporters of the proposal say that is too long.
"We should not accept that," said Larry Geller, president of the Kokua Council citizens advocacy group.
A look at some suggested changes for crosswalks recommended by AARP Hawaii in testimony supporting Senate Bill 1191:
» Provide pedestrian signals at crosswalks.
» Make pedestrian signal automatic (no buttons to push).
» Extend signal times to allow enough time for pedestrians to cross.
» Add audible and countdown signals.
» Maintain walk signals.
» Repaint crosswalks, add more visible striping, reflectors.
» Add more marked crosswalks.
» Make crosswalk signs more visible, possibly add blinking lights.
» Widen crosswalks where necessary.
» Relocate crosswalks from inappropriate spots.
The proposed study, included in Senate Bill 1191, is one of several measures introduced this year in both chambers aimed at improving pedestrian safety in Hawaii.
On Oahu alone, 669 accidents involving pedestrians of all ages were reported last year, including 20 fatalities, according to the Honolulu Police Department. More than half of those, 11, were people age 65 or older, according to senior citizens advocacy group AARP Hawaii.
Of the six pedestrian fatalities so far in 2007, five have been elderly residents.
Hawaii has the highest pedestrian death rate among seniors nationwide, according to AARP.
The Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony on SB 1911 yesterday.
In supporting the proposal, the AARP submitted its own study, completed last year, of 50 crosswalks in Hawaii. That study showed that crosswalk signals changed too quickly most of the time.
"The bottom line is what we already knew: Many of our streets on Oahu are unsafe," said Charlotte Peltz, an AARP volunteer.
State Transportation Deputy Director Brennon Morioka said the agency supports the intent of the study but asked for more time, saying that the study would have to be put out to bid and would likely take more than a year to complete.
Citing a projected cost of $1 million, Senate Transportation Chairman J. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai) said he also wanted to look at having counties share the cost.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
At this crosswalk at Alakea and King streets yesterday, most pedestrians did not even make it halfway through before the signal began to change. A Senate bill calls for a crosswalk study. CLICK FOR LARGE
Geller urged agency directors to look at immediately lengthening the crossing time at some of the riskier crosswalks identified in the AARP study.
Morioka and Melvin Kaku, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, said lengthening crossing times requires a more comprehensive study because doing so could lead to other, unintended traffic problems. For example, Kaku said, having longer crosswalk times at intersections where there is little pedestrian traffic could result in more people running red lights.
"I applaud the study, but it's only looking at one aspect," Kaku said.
Both said longer crosswalk time already is in place at crosswalks near facilities such as senior citizen centers and schools.
Peltz said the AARP supports a comprehensive study, but asked that status reports be provided in a timely manner if the work would not be completed before the 2008 session.
The committee put off a decision on the bill until Feb. 7.