By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
The state will install a traffic signal and other improvements
to the intersection of Leilehua Golf Course Road and
Kamehameha Highway in Wahiawa.
State to fix WahiawasBy Michelle Cournoyer
Army Sgt. Benedict Franks-Ongoy cringed each time he heard tires screeching outside his office window.
He would wonder if another fatal accident had occurred at Leilehua Golf Course Road and Kamehameha Highway in Wahiawa, where a 76-year-old woman was killed last year.
"I heard a crash and some of my guys went outside to see if they could help, but nothing could be done," said Franks-Ongoy. "It was pretty traumatic. That could have been someone's grandmother or mother."
Sen. Randy Iwase (D-Mililani) said a letter from Franks-Ongoy, that of another Wahiawa resident, and area police helped push $1.8 million through the Legislature to make the intersection and other area roadways safer.
Three fatal crashes occurred near Franks-Ongoy's National Guard Armory office over the past two years. Two of the crashes happened when drivers on Leilehua Golf Course Road, turning left onto the highway, were broadsided by cars traveling north on Kamehameha. A cyclist died in a hit-and-run in November 1996.
The state approved $700,000 to put a traffic light and turn lanes at the site of the fatal crashes.
"There is a great need for these funds, because there's just not enough money to replace someone's life," Franks-Ongoy said. "If this project saves just one more life, it's money well spent."
Police say drivers should be cautious making left-hand turns at the busy intersection. Cars coming off the freeway ramp about 100 yards away speed into the intersection where left-turning cars wait and pedestrians catch the bus. The speed limit in the area is 35 mph, but most drivers enter the intersection at 55 mph, police said.
"It is a very busy intersection, and there is a lot to look out for," said police Sgt. Fay Tamura of the Wahiawa Community Policing Team. "If you make an error, it can be deadly."
The state Department of Transportation is seeking federal funds that could cut the state's cost to $150,000.
Design began last month, and construction should be complete by early 2000, said Marilyn Kali, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
Other projects the Legislature-approved funds will be used for include:
$825,000 to fight hillside erosion that threatens drivers on the road below Kipapa Gulch. Heavy rains loosen soft soil, sending rocks tumbling down the hillside into the path of oncoming drivers.
The state plans to hang rock-fall protection netting on the face of the gulch and build roadside fences this fall, Kali said.
$200,000 to build a 2-mile-long concrete barrier on the H-2 freeway median from Kipapa Gulch to Wahiawa. This is the site of a crash that killed a 20-year-old mother in December. A speeding car veered into her lane, slamming head-on into her car.
Concrete barriers dividing the north- and south-bound lanes of H-2 end at the Meheula Parkway and begin again after the Wahiawa off-ramp. The strip of highway where the crash occurred is separated only by grass, bushes and a water drainage canal.
$100,000 to plan the construction of a sidewalk adjacent to the new Mililani Post Office. Residents running errands at the Mililani Shopping Center walk down the highway shoulder while cars whiz by. Construction may begin as soon as July, Kali said.