No white lines yet indicate a crosswalk here on Kapolei Parkway, but students at Kapolei High School make the hazardous crossing anyway because it is convenient. In January a 14-year-old girl was hit by a construction truck here.

Traffic imperils
Kapolei students

Many parents refuse
to let their children walk
to school until crosswalks
are put in

By Mary Vorsino

Hundreds of Kapolei schoolchildren are walking to neighborhood schools across wide, busy streets that have a limited number of crosswalks, no stoplights and no stop signs.

The situation is angering parents who want fast action to safeguard their children.

The areas of concern are:

>> An unmarked crossing fronting Kapolei High School on the six-lane, 45-mph speed limit Kapolei Parkway where an estimated 300 students cross in the morning and again in the afternoon. Cuts are made in the curb and median for wheelchair access, but no lines are painted or signs posted to indicate a pedestrian crossing.

>> A marked crossing with no stoplight fronting Kapolei Middle School on the four-lane Kamaaha Avenue. Many of the 1,200 sixth- to eighth-graders use the crosswalk, said the school's principal, Annette Nishikawa.

>> An unmarked crossing on the four-lane Kamaaha Avenue near Kapolei Elementary and Middle Schools, where cuts are made in the curb but again, no lines are painted or signs posted warning drivers of pedestrians.

Susan Niemi's 14-year-old daughter was hit by a construction truck and seriously injured in late January while trying to cross the unmarked crossing in front of Kapolei High School.

Niemi said wanting a safe crossing at the site is not too much to ask.

"There's no crosswalk. There's no traffic light. ... There's no lines. It's ridiculous."

The nearest marked crosswalk is about a half-mile away where Kapolei Parkway intersects Fort Barrette Road.

Niemi, along with a score of other concerned Kapolei residents, have been pushing the Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawaii to paint additional crosswalks as well as post pedestrian-activated stoplights or fluorescent signs at the current crosswalk fronting Kapolei Middle School.

The HCDCH is the agency that owns and maintains the roads until they are handed over to the city.

Spokesman Darrell Young said it is not as simple as painting white lines or posting signs.

The changes the agency makes should be lasting, he said, so the city can take them over without a glitch. "We need to work with the professionals. ... We're trying to work and (we're) listening to the community."

Young said the agency is also concerned about the liability of adding a painted crosswalk that may give pedestrians a false sense of security.

If someone is hit at the crosswalk, he said, the agency could be liable if the crosswalk was poorly designed and planned.

Kapolei parents have urged the Housing and Community Development Corp. to take prompt action to ensure pedestrian safety at Kapolei Parkway, shown here, and other locations. The agency says design contracts are a necessary first step.

Later this year, design contracts should begin for a traffic light for the crosswalk fronting Kapolei Middle School and a crosswalk at Kaiau Avenue, where many students cross for the elementary school, Young said. Other contracts could materialize later this year, he said.

Lolita Takeda, a mother of two Kapolei high school students and one Kapolei Elementary student, said the unmarked crossings are an example of poor planning.

"Every day, I send my kids to school (and) I have to worry whether they made it safe and whether they're coming back to me at the end of the day."

Takeda does not allow her high school-age children to cross at the unmarked crossing fronting the high school.

Despite living only minutes away by foot, Takeda drives all of her children to school every day and demands that they take the long way home -- at the Kapolei Parkway and Fort Barrette Road intersection -- at night.

Nishikawa said she has told HCDCH and others, including politicians and state agencies, that there is a need for a pedestrian-activated stoplight there because the crosswalk is a danger.

"There's a lot of people going through that intersection, a lot of traffic going through here." Every student who walks, bikes or takes the city bus home uses the crosswalk, she said.

Dan Fletcher, the father of a Kapolei Elementary School fifth-grader, will not allow his child to walk to school because of the unmarked crossing on Kamaaha Avenue. He makes room in his schedule to drop his child off at school in the morning and pick up the student at night.

All three Kapolei schools are in session.


Young said short-term additions, like rumble strips or stop signs at key crosswalks, would have to be approved by a design consultant.

Many of the students who walk or bike to the schools come from nearby housing developments.

Warren Wegesend, general manager of the Villages of Kapolei, said he has talked to HCDCH about the crosswalk and unmarked crossings and indicated "there's a need for some assistance in getting across" them.

Starting today, Sen. Brian Kanno (D, Ewa Beach-Makakilo) will be standing in as a crossing guard on Kamaaha and Kaiau avenues for Kapolei Elementary School, which has not had a crossing guard since the start of the school year last month. The Honolulu Police Department, which reported a shortage of crossing guards, has since filled a majority of the island's guard positions.

City Transportation Director Cheryl Soon said her office is "trying to encourage a solution." But she said she has no jurisdiction over the roads as they are privately owned and have not yet been dedicated to the city and county.

Cacey Robello, a parent facilitator at Kapolei High School, said she first heard of the push to make the crosswalks and unmarked crossings safer six years ago, when she moved to the area. The situation could be even more dire, she said, as more housing developments are built. Kapolei Elementary and Middle schools opened in late 1999 and Kapolei High School in 2000.

"I have not seen anything done yet. All in all, we're just looking out for the safety of our children. That's it," Robello said.

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