White knights hit the road


POSTED: Wednesday, June 17, 2009

White tow trucks will begin patrolling for stalled cars and accidents along the H-1 freeway today as part of a two-year Freeway Service Patrol pilot program.

The state Department of Transportation launches the program today to relieve traffic congestion, save fuel and time for drivers, and reduce emissions.

“;With the word 'crisis' being in the news recently, it's good to unveil a project that will reduce frustration and lower blood pressure,”; said Abraham Wong, division administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

The free program will offer emergency roadside assistance to stalled vehicles and motorists who are in an accident along the H-1 and Moanalua freeways. The area has the highest traffic volume and the greatest potential to congest traffic resulting from stalled vehicles, according to the state. Six trucks will circle the 15-mile route from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

The program will assist in changing flat tires, jump starting cars' batteries, radiator refills, basic repairs, and providing a gallon of gasoline for empty tanks.

“;I think this is an outstanding innovation brought to our state,”; said Gov. Linda Lingle. “;When I first moved to Honolulu from Maui, I blew a tire on the freeway and it was a frightening experience. You're pretty much on your own.”;

Harvey Heaton, former Freeway Service Patrol program manager in California, said nationally the program encounters 70 percent of incidents before they're reported, so drivers are trained in basic first-aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, fire extinguishing and recognizing hazardous materials.

“;The FSP concept is proven to be a useful tool to relieving traffic congestion and making highways safer,”; said Heaton, the Hawaii project manager. “;These (drivers) will save lives; what they do will make a difference.”;

Maureen Andrade, who drives 17 miles to work weekdays, from Waipahu to downtown, said, “;It's hard to tell (if it'll work), but we'll just have to wait and see.”;

Andrade said she normally leaves for work at 4:30 a.m. to avoid traffic, and starts driving home at 6 p.m. for the same reason. With the freeway jammed after one recent accident, “;it took me an hour to an hour half to get to work,”; she said.

Andrade said she usually sees three stalled cars or minor accidents a week.

State officials did not immediately release the numbers of these types of traffic incidents.

The project will cost about $3.9 million over two years, with 90 percent ($3.5 million) of funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The other $390,000 was taken from state highway funds, according to a news release.

In September the Transportation Department awarded a contract to develop and manage the program to Telvent Farradyne Inc., a Maryland company with a local office.

Island Wide Towing will be working in collaboration with Telvent by providing operators and dispatch staff.

The Transportation Department can choose to continue the program after two years with two one-year extensions and may expand the route to other areas of the freeway.

For more information, visit www.fsphawaii.com.