What can I say? This subject has been so frustrating and so enduring that everyone is ready to explode. Everyone has known there is a problem at Laniakea for years, every imaginable solution has been presented to the Department of Transportation, and yet there is no relief.
We all know a 10-year-old boy was recently struck by a car as he darted through the traffic. Fortunately, he was able to leave the hospital the following day and return home with his family. It was a scary and emotional event for the family and the driver, and an upsetting issue for all of us who have endured the traffic, recognized the urgency for action, and cried out for relief.
This accident was not only predictable, it was inevitable. In fact, it is not the first fender bender or pedestrian accident to occur at Laniakea in recent years. We can only hope that it will be the last such accident. But then, what should be done for short term relief?
Barriers are often mentioned. I have written this before and spoken about it in public, yet many people remain unaware that the plaintiffs in the barriers court case have continuously offered to work with DOT on a compromise design. They would be willing to end the court challenge if DOT would allow parking in conjunction with barrier replacement. In June, DOT acknowledged some interest in such a compromise, but serious discussions have yet to begin.
A few months ago, I met Chris Tatum and the new leadership team at Hawaii Tourism Authority. Happily, they did not hesitate to accept my request to facilitate discussions with DOT on Laniakea. HTA is willing and able to financially support a pilot project to coordinate street crossings through special duty police and a stipulated crossing point, rather than the quarter-mile free-for-all now in effect.
HTA coordinated a meeting with me, Rep. Quinlan, CM Tsuneyoshi, the Mayor, DOT, City Parks, State coastal management, Police and other interested parties to begin a new round of discussions. At this meeting, one DOT official said Laniakea realignment “is not even on the list” of priorities for highway planning. As upsetting as that admission is, it reveals why they have dragged their feet and not completed the nearly decade-old traffic alternatives and environmental study.
So, can we ever get any relief? I believe we can, if DOT is committed to finding a way forward. They could work with HTA to coordinate pedestrian crossings, or reach agreement with the plaintiffs, or combine these two initiatives. The specific pieces of this puzzle can be identified and amended, if needed, once there is a commitment to proceed and act. There is no shortage of ideas and potential solutions. Let’s pick one and do it soon!