Crosswalk clocks set to tick
The governor might veto a bill that would allow the timers to be installed more quickly
The city plans to install 120 crosswalk countdown timers in one year, though officials say they could double that amount if Gov. Linda Lingle decides not to veto a bill tomorrow that will fund pedestrian safety initiatives.
Beginning in the downtown area and later spreading islandwide, the city Department of Transportation Services has begun replacing broken signals and will retrofit older models with new ones that flash the number of seconds pedestrians have to cross the street.
City spokesman Bill Brennan said if Lingle decides not to veto Senate Bill 1191, which provides $3 million to the state, including $300,000 for the City and County of Honolulu for the next two years, the pedestrian safety measures could be implemented more quickly.
"We'll still do more for pedestrian safety," said Brennan, referring to scenarios if Lingle follows statements she made to possibly veto the bill. "But it'll just take more time."
Lingle has said previously that she is opposed to signing the bill into law because she does not want to use highway fund money.
If the bill is signed, the city would also conduct safety audits across the island to study intersections that will give them better information, such as adequate crossing time, to provide safer crosswalks.
The new countdown timers are intended to make crossing the streets safer by telling pedestrians exactly how much time they have left. Members of the Downtown Neighborhood Board told city officials at a meeting last week they are happy about replacing the old crosswalk signals but that more needs to be done for pedestrians.
"The hand turns red and starts counting down almost immediately," said Frank Lavoie, vice chairman of the Downtown Neighborhood Board. "Once the new signals starts counting down, it only helps the people in the intersection to know how much more time they have to cross. It's helping the people who rush across the street to beat the clock."
Since the downtown area is congested with pedestrians and condominium residents, residents said they would like to see automated crosswalk signals and lengthened crossing time to accommodate the higher volume of pedestrians.
"We also want to change the focus away from pedestrians and to cars and possibly banning some right turns," said Tom Smyth, chairman of the Downtown Neighborhood Board. "Some of them are very dangerous."
That is why comprehensive studies for intersections are necessary, Smyth said.
"Our position is please don't veto," Smyth said. "Pedestrian safety problems are solvable with good engineering, and it requires money."