DRIVING on Oahu -- already a hazard to physical and mental health -- will likely get worse before it gets better in the months ahead as numerous road projects move ahead and school openings tax the patience of motorists. Raging against the machinery of street improvements and water main repairs does little good because the work needs to get done. The best drivers can do is get off the road or plan their commutes.
When road work throws
a curve, enjoy the ride
The issue: Numerous road projects and
the start of the new school terms will make
driving on Oahu more stressful than usual.
As Hawaii's population grows, so do its traffic problems. After years of use, Oahu's roadways are in dire need of repairs. The H-1 freeway has had few major improvements made in the last 15 years, the state Department of Transportation reports. More than 40 years old, the H-1 is long overdue for repairs and additions to accommodate the glut of vehicles that now move along its lanes.
Anyone who has driven in the right lane along King Street through the downtown area has felt the dips that the starting and stopping of buses cause in the black top. Residents of Makiki, McCully and Manoa have been crying for years for another off-ramp lane at the Punahou exit. Broken water lines are evidence that they need better maintenance and repairs.
The state and city governments attempt to minimize jams by scheduling the work between peak traffic hours, but there's no pleasing everybody. Delivery drivers and others whose jobs require being on the road at all hours complain they are hampered. Residents living near projects grumble about the noise at night.
Motorists should find alternative routes to their destinations, which may take longer, but could also be more fun. For example, instead of the aggravating stop and go on the H-1 from Aina Haina to town, taking the scenic view down Kahala Avenue past Diamond Head and through Waikiki will certainly be more relaxing.
Carpooling or catching the bus lets you snooze or read while someone else drives, and saves gasoline money and cuts air pollution. School children also can catch the city bus or carpool with other students in the DOT's SchoolPool program.
Drivers can keep informed about road projects by checking the Star-Bulletin's "Streetwise" column published every Monday. It lists by districts and streets where work is being done. DOT's Web site, www.hawaii.gov/dot, also provides lists of projects.
With so much road work, it may be impossible to evade the vision of orange cones. Motorists should be careful and courteous to the workers whose bodies those orange cones protect. They aren't causing the traffic problems; they are trying to fix them.
When you hit a traffic jam, turn on the radio or plop in a CD and be patient. As the local saying goes, main thing, cool head.
RESIDENTS of the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques confirmed in a referendum that they are solidly against the Navy's continued military exercises and bombing runs on their island, but that does not mean the Navy will immediately retreat. President Bush has agreed only that the shelling will stop by May 2003.
Bombs away urged for
The issue: Voters on the Puerto Rican
island of Vieques have voted the Navy stop
using their island for bombing exercises.
Political pressure from the Hispanic vote caused the president last month to call a halt to the naval bombing on Vieques but only in a little less than two years. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler had ruled earlier that the bombing could continue because she found no "irreparable harm" to island residents. However, that case still is pending, and Kessler may rule eventually whether the bombing should stop or be allowed to proceed.
Results of the referendum show that most of the island's residents clearly want the Navy to leave. With 80 percent of the eligible voters casting ballots, more than two-thirds want the Navy's immediate departure, while 30 percent favor letting the Navy remain indefinitely. Only 1.7 percent endorsed Bush's plan.
The White House responded that the vote will not change things. "These matters are not only decided by referendum, but they are decided by a variety of factors that represents a balanced approach, and that's what the president has done here," said press secretary Ari Fleischer. A Navy spokeswoman said the vote "will have no impact on the Navy or our focus."
That may be overstating the administration's resolve. Bush already has demonstrated that political reality by promising to move the Navy off the island in less than two years, even though the Pentagon had argued that use of Vieques for bombing practice was vital to national security.
Opponents of Army live-fire training exercises in Oahu's Makua Valley are challenging the Army in federal court, demanding that it prepare an environmental impact statement. A federal judge earlier this month ordered a three-month continuation of the current pause in exercises.
Meanwhile, Rep. Neil Abercrombie has suggested that Pentagon plans to upgrade the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade could lead to relocating live-fire training, but that may be decades away. Maj. Gen. Craig Whelden, the U.S. Army Pacific deputy commander, says the plans do not change "the urgent need to train forces at Makua now."
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