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Monday, December 20, 1999


By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Reflectors on trees along medial strip of Ala Moana Boulevard.

Palm trees shed light
on blind spot

Faithful reader Bob Jones of Honolulu wonders about all the reflectors tacked onto palm trees on the short stretch of Ala Moana Boulevard between the Ala Wai bridge and Kalakaua Avenue. They're clustered mostly on the median, but trees on the sidewalk side also sport reflectors. Nearly every tree in the region.

"The trees sit well back from the roadway alongside the divider fence. There's also a curb," points out Jones. "So why does each tree need a reflector? In case someone jumps over the curb, drives across the grass, hits a tree, and then says, 'I didn't know there were trees there'?"

And just around the corner, Bob, along Kalakaua, trees grow even closer to the curb and there isn't a reflector in sight. What's up with that?

As you might have guessed already, Ala Moana and Kalakaua fall into different jurisdictions. Ala Moana is administered by the state, and federal highway laws come into effect. Feel that little bump as you drive into Waikiki? You're entering city limits, road-wise.

The reflectors aren't necessarily put only on trees, said state traffic engineer Paul Hamamoto. "It's called object-marking, and it's a matter of judgment how to point out visual obstructions."

The key is the big picture. Don't look at the forest of reflectors for the trees, go with the flow, because the journey is the destination. Now and zen, what we mean is that the groupings of trees have to be considered en masse.

The difference is that Ala Moana curves blindly in that area. The reflectors, grouped together, show from a distance that the road curves out of sight.

Are they all the same distance from the ground because that was the height of the zealous reflector-nailer? "Nah," said Hamamoto. "There's a specific guideline for that, about 4 feet above the pavement."

Burl Burlingame

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