Freeway is dark because thieves steal the wiring


POSTED: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Question: I was driving from Kapolei toward Honolulu on the H-1 freeway and noticed a lot of street lights were out—about 100 or so between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium. This is a bad thing for public safety. Why has nothing been done about this?

Answer: Most of those lights won't be on any time soon, although many have been replaced time and again.

According to the state Department of Transportation, “;Safety is always our No. 1 priority,”; so damaged lights in areas that are required to be lit as part of federal highway standards have been replaced immediately.

There are stretches of the H-1 west of Waikele that don't fall under those federal requirements, but “;we have replaced the lighting numerous times,”; said Transportation Department spokeswoman Tammy Mori.

The problem is that each time the lights were replaced, thieves made off with the copper wiring from the light posts.

However, in December several members of a copper theft ring were indicted for allegedly stealing more than $563,000 worth of copper wiring over a three-year period.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Department is looking into replacing the copper with aluminum wire. But it won't be as simple as just switching the wiring.

“;We will have to actually replace the entire system and conduits to sync with the aluminum wiring,”; Mori said.

Asked about other areas where the copper thefts have left motorists in the dark, Mori pointed to stretches of the H-2 freeway.

“;The amount of time and resources we spend inspecting, investigating, repairing and replacing this wiring should be going towards things like repairing and maintaining our roadways,”; Mori said. “;That is why we hope the community can help be our eyes and ears as well.”;

If you note any suspicious activity along the freeways, you're asked to call 911 immediately.

Q: The lights have been out for months on Pali Highway between Waokanaka Street and the tunnels. Also, recently, the lights on the Kailua side went out. What's going on?

A: It'll be at least another month before the lights on the Honolulu side of the tunnels are back on, but you've probably noticed that the Kailua-side lights have been repaired.

An accident Nov. 27 took out an electrical cabinet (control box) for the Honolulu-side lights, said Mori.

The cabinets are special items, normally with a long service life, so they're not kept in stock, she said. Bids for a replacement cabinet were solicited and received, and a purchase order was issued Dec. 18.

The cabinet, manufactured when ordered, and related materials are expected to arrive in mid-March, and repairs will follow soon after, Mori said.

She said Thursday that the Transportation Department had just received report of the outages on the Kailua side. Repairs were made Friday.