Traffic-calming Not So Calm On Kihapai

What started years ago as a group effort to stop speeding on Kihapai Street has been slowed to a halt by the biggest speed barriers of all — budgets and bureaucracy.

According to Kihapai Street resident Todd Hendricks, the city’s initial traffic-calming response in December 2001 was to install the very latest weapons to combat speedsters (who take the Kihapai detour to avoid the crunch on Oneawa). Along the length of that street, it put in 14 bulb-outs, four speed tables and a chicane (defined as a method of funneling cars between non-parallel concrete barriers).

But something went wrong along the way and it’s never been corrected, despite occasional written promises by the city Department of Transportation Services to fix “the obstacle course” that was paved with good intentions. Hendricks, a retired Kailua High teacher, pointed out in 2008 that “the bulb-outs are a nuisance, and the fire trucks have a difficult time responding” — this from a local fire captain who was his former student. Those towing boats also have trouble getting through.

“We have been working for seven years and through two city administrations to make needed changes to improve traffic, pedestrian and bicycle safety on Kihapai Street,” said Hendricks, who has led the campaign for project changes. “I’m tired of hearing budget, budget, budget.”

He and about 90 percent of his neighbors (petitioned twice) have requested additional speed tables (humps, not bumps) for the 400 block of the street, as well as the removal of two chicanes. Such remedial action, responded DTS director Michael Formby to Hendricks last July, “would generally be considered lower priority versus a community request for devices where one does not currently exist.”

City Councilman Ikaika Anderson confirmed the familiar funding snafu in a Jan. 21 email to the Windward Islander:

“I cannot speak for DTS,” Anderson wrote, “but I can tell you that this project still is of low-funding priority for the City Council. Communities across my Council district are requesting the installation of traffic-calming devices, and I cannot at this time seek monies to remove/replace existing traffic calming devices while such funds could be routed to communities awaiting installation of improvements.”

Still, Hendricks argued, “the bulb-outs and center-lane barriers do not work. Waimanalo-bound traffic does not slow down, as drivers have learned that if they go straight, they do not have to slow down.”

If the city’s fathers and mothers were to listen to Hendricks’ personal proposal, it would all be over and done by now: “I could bring in a large 4-in-1 front-end loader and remove the 410 Kihapai device in 10 minutes; then order asphalt from Grace Pacific and install the new speed table there in two hours.

“The new speed table for 467 and 471 Kihapai would take another two hours. Traffic will have to be blocked for a short time to allow the hot asphalt to harden.”

After that, maybe this determined retiree could step up to direct the rail project.