The Word on the Streets

A look at what’s new on Honolulu’s roads and sidewalks.

Walk This Way

If you thought draconian jaywalking enforcement was the only way the city was pursuing pedestrian safety, good news. The Department of Transportation Services is experimenting with new kinds of crosswalks that will make pedestrians more visible to motorists.

The first installations were simple pedestrian-warning signs in the middle of the road, placed in Manoa and Kailua. In April, the city and county installed an in-pavement flashing crosswalk in Kalihi. Just push a button, and a series of lights embedded in the pavement lets drivers know you want to cross. And later this year, an overhead flashing crosswalk installation will make it easier to cross South King Street in McCully.

Of the experiment, Wayne Yoshioka, DTS director, says, “We’re trying different technologies in different traffic situations. After we get the data in, and if the data suggests that these lights are truly effective, then we’ll look to expand their use island-wide.”

Until then, watch out for rookie cops with their ticket books out.

Stand Down

You might have noticed an increase in the number of plastic newsstands—the ones that distribute Penny Savers and other free publications—sitting empty and neglected on Honolulu’s sidewalks.

Turns out the ramshackle stands are a result of tough times for the publishing industry, and relaxed regulations when it comes to maintaining the stands.

Local independent distributor Elton Murata says, “A lot of companies have gone out of business. There were twice as many publications a year ago.” Some of the publishers take the trouble to pick up their stands from around the city, but others simply leave them. The plastic stands cost about $150 a piece (not counting the $150 shipping charge from the Mainland), but if they’ve been on the street for any significant amount of time, the resale value can be low.

“Street stands get a lot of abuse,” says Murata. “Graffiti, people kicking the stands, or stuffing trash inside them. The maintenance costs are unbelievable.”

And outside of the Waikiki special district, all it takes to install a newsstand is a $15 permit, good for a year. The city and county employs two contract workers to keep track of all the newsstands, but as long as an abandoned stand isn’t presenting a hazard, it will likely be left until its permit expires.

The End of Potholes?

Well, probably not, but Honolulu’s roads might at least start lasting longer, if a new pilot project works out. The city and county is planning to spend $2 million later this year to slather something called “slurry seal” on 21 lane miles of Honolulu roads.

The coating, when applied to asphalt in relatively good condition, is said to prolong the surface’s lifespan by five to seven years. (The current lifespan of Honolulu’s heavily traveled roads is 10 to 15 years.)

If the slurry seal works, maybe we can stop thinking of the rainy season as pothole season.

30,904: the number of potholes fixed by the City and County of Honolulu between July 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010.