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Barrier Planning at the DOT

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

The Hawaii Department of Transportation recently announced its plan to conduct an environmental assessment relating to parking barriers at Laniakea. They identify three safety concerns: Parking maneuvers interfering with the travelling public; Pedestrian crossings conflicting with the travelling public; and Tours/Shuttle bus maneuvers and unlawful parking, and they offer four possible solutions.

Traffic volumes continue to increase every year and I wonder if barrier placement several months from now will have the same results it had three years ago. Since the barriers were installed in 2013, cars regularly park all the way from the ranch entrance through Laniakea and Chun’s Beaches, and beyond Ashley Road. There are ever more beach users and parked cars.

Pedestrian crossing has always been the primary safety concern and traffic aggravating element, followed by the tour and shuttle buses, which should not be allowed to park in the area. Here are my thoughts on the various proposals and a suggested alternative.

The No Build with No Parking Signs and Mauka Barriers with No Parking Options reduce much needed beach parking and force people to park in ever more distant, possibly less safe areas, and require them to walk along the roadway next to all the parked and moving cars.

The Mauka Barriers with Parking Option retains much needed parking and aggregates pedestrians at either end of the lot before crossing the street. However, this option is likely to create new traffic issues as cars wait to turn into, out of, and around the barriers.

The Mauka Barriers with Parallel Parking Option is the worst of all options as it would slow traffic as cars wiggle into each parking space, and it would enhance the willy-nilly pedestrian crossings. This was one of the side effects between Laniakea and Chun’s caused during the previous barrier installation.

DOT should study Makai Barriers. This configuration would allow existing parking while also forcing pedestrians to gather at either end of the 800-foot stretch before crossing. People will not dart across the highway to hurdle barriers or get stuck on a narrow highway shoulder; they will look for the natural, safer crossing points at either end of the parking area. This option could get cars off and on the road more efficiently, retain much needed parking, aggregate pedestrian crossings and reduce coastal erosion from people scampering among the bushes, rocks and sand.

The existing, traditional parking area is not the problem. The problem is the random pedestrian crossings. The present configuration allows multiple cars to enter and exit the highway simultaneously, and cars easily move off the highway and out of traffic into a wide, safe parking area.

None of the alternatives provide a comprehensive solution for this traffic corridor, which includes similar traffic and pedestrian issues at nearby Chun’s Reef. It is disappointing that nine years after funds were appropriated to study traffic alternatives, a different study is being pushed forward to justify a “short term relief” project. The long range traffic and highway alignment alternatives study must be completed this year, not in the perpetually promised “next year.” Let’s go, DOT.

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