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Price: Kawaihae Road safety needs county attention

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The following was addressed to Ron Thiel, county Department of Public Works Traffic Safety Engineer:

SKTSC has been discussing possible short term and long term solutions form any traffic issues along the county section of Kawaihae Road from Lindsey intersection east to the state highway boundary.

However, in today’s economy, implementing possible options to improve traffic conditions is greatly hindered, if not completely stopped, by the lack of funds available to put any of these solutions into action.

With the new development of Longs Drugs beginning on Kawaihae Road in Waimea, SKTSC is greatly concerned with the flow of traffic and the safety of pedestrians, especially children, due to this area of the road being in a school zone.

The building site and parking lot for Long’s will be almost directly across the street from Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s lower campus, already a consistent point of congestion during school drop off and pick up times.

Along with two churches, several small businesses and the park in close proximity, this is also an area where up to 90 children a day are seen walking to and from school.

Hawaii County has the highest rate and number of traffic fatalities in the state (FARS data). Protecting pedestrians in this traffic corridor needs to be a priority.

The community is willing to work with the county financially to support providing improved pedestrian safety along Kawaihae Road. This is an old problem that has developed as the community grew, but for far too long has been neglected at the expense of our children’s safety and other pedestrians as well.

A goal has been set by SKTSC to create some sort of solution that would offset the risks to pedestrians and at the same time be financially attainable in the near future.

A conceptual plan has been discussed to put in two crosswalks with flashing lights, one at the north end of the Community Center and the other at the north end of HPA Lower Campus. There would also be signs with flashing lights designating a school zone with a 20mph speed limit.

This is a small project that greatly improves pedestrian safety crossing a busy road. The cost to benefit ratio justifies the project. What is the life of a pedestrian worth to their family, friends and community?

The equipment cost of the flashing lights and signs is roughly projected to be $46,000. The developer of Long’s has agreed to contribute $20,000 toward safety improvements on Kawaihae Road.

Other organizations are interested in pledging financial support for this project but need a plan with clear scope and details to base their financial support decision on.

A concern is that there are not many details developed for this project. People need more details to take back to their respective organizations regarding who will install the lights and signage, what costs are involved besides the $46,000 for equipment and does the County DPW and administration support a joint public/private approach to this project.

Also is direct hire DPW labor and management available to perform the installation to minimize cost?

We respectfully request clarification and support of this project in time for the SKTSC Dec. 13, 2011 meeting from DPW and the Administration.

Thank you, Ron, for working with the community on a continue basis finding obtainable solutions to provide safe pedestrian routes and reduce the traffic injury and fatality rate for Hawaii County.

Mike Price
Chairman, South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee

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