The family of a teenage girl who was killed by a car earlier this month while in a crosswalk along Fort Weaver Road says the state should make the area safer.
The Ewa Pedestrian Coalition also
calls for a safer way to
cross Fort Weaver Road
By Mary Vorsino
"This will not happen again to any other family. ... Whatever it takes, we want to make sure that this is not going to happen again, because this is just too painful," said the victim's uncle Renato Rongcal.
Marilene Bacani was crossing from West Loch Fairways to the city bus stop in front of the Ewa Child and Family Service building about 7:30 a.m. on July 9 when a station wagon hit her.
The 66-old year driver was not speeding or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the accident occurred, Honolulu Police Department traffic investigators said.
Bacani died two days later. She was an only child who had turned 16 a week earlier.
The crosswalk, just over the crest of a small hill and a little mauka of Karayan Street, is on a 45-mph speed-limit section of the four-lane Fort Weaver Road. It has concerned some Ewa residents since it was put in two years ago and prompted the formation of the Ewa Pedestrian Coalition, which last year moved the state Department of Transportation to replace dull signage with fluorescent yellow crossing signs.
Bacani's death is the first pedestrian accident at the crosswalk, but Tom Berg, a member of the coalition, said there have been a number of "near misses." And with construction beginning later this year to widen Fort Weaver Road to six lanes, Berg said the problem becomes more urgent.
"We're bolting through. We're going 45, 55, 60 mph on that road. ... This is dangerous. This is insane," he said. "I've almost hit someone. I almost killed somebody, because we're not used to stopping there."
The crosswalk sits between the West Loch Fairways neighborhood and a town-bound city bus stop on one side and the Child and Family Service complex and an Ewa Beach-bound city bus stop on the other.
DOT traffic branch investigator Reed Matsuo said a traffic light is not warranted "because basically, based on the number of people using the crosswalk, (there are) not that many people crossing."
At least 100 people need to cross a walk within four hours for it to get a pedestrian-activated stop light, he said. According to officials at Child and Family Service, about 75 to 100 people cross the walk daily, most during heavy commute times in the morning or late afternoon and mostly young adults and the elderly.
Ron Foster, another of Bacani's uncles, said the DOT should also consider that the crosswalk is near a number of areas heavily-used by children and young adults.
"People are traveling that road when the kids are coming out from school. Kids coming from West Loch (Fairways) cross that crossway to catch the bus to go to school. They're back across that road in the afternoon. If you stop, you're lucky you don't get rear-ended."
But Matsuo is skeptical of the amount of added safety a traffic light would provide, he said, because stoplights give pedestrians a "false sense of security."
Some residents, who don't want another stop light on the road, are pushing that the crosswalk be removed altogether and pedestrians use a stoplight at the nearest intersection.
The only problem: On the Ewa Beach-bound side of the road there is no sidewalk.
Some pedestrians do walk on the wide shoulder of the road to the intersection, but most choose the crosswalk, Berg said.
According to a 2001 survey by the coalition, most Ewa residents favor an overpass or underpass instead of a stop light at the crosswalk.
But Matsuo said that an overpass or underpass, which would require disabilities access, would cost the state about $4 million and is out of range for the department.
State Rep. Willie C. Espero (D, Ewa Beach), also a member of the coalition, said he is currently discussing the crosswalk with DOT officials. He said he can understand the "state and city's concerns. But it is completely unacceptable to have a crosswalk at that location. If they (the DOT) need more funds, they need to re-prioritize."
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