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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crosswalk lights unveiled

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

This in-pavement flashing light was among 22 installed at the intersection of North King Street and Morris Lane in Kalihi. The site was chosen after Kalihi residents and officials identified the crosswalk as a problem.

Photos by BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Police Chief Louis Kealoha were among the first pedestrians making use of the new system. Despite the new signals, Kealoha called for drivers and pedestrians to remain vigilant.

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The city is testing some new technology aimed at making mid-block crosswalks safer for pedestrians, and the first one to try it out yesterday was Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

A little past 12:30 p.m., Hannemann pushed the walk button at the intersection of North King Street and Morris Lane in Kalihi and strode to the makai side of the busy street and back again without incident.

Moments after he touched the crosswalk button, warning lights began flashing directly below large yellow-green pedestrian warning signs and 22 in-pavement lights flicked on to warn drivers that people would soon be crossing the busy thoroughfare.

"This is all about making crosswalks safer for our people," Hannemann said before venturing across the street.

The site for the test project was selected after Kalihi residents and leaders identified the crosswalk as a problem.

Although the pedestrian-actuated crosswalk safety lights were designed and installed to make crossing the street safer, Police Chief Louis Kealoha urged pedestrians and drivers to stay vigilant.

"It's a good project, but it shouldn't replace (pedestrians) using caution," Kealoha said. "And when drivers see the lights flashing, they shouldn't speed up" to make it through the area before a pedestrian enters the crosswalk.

Placida Deompoc, who frequents a shop on the makai side of the street to send money to the Philippines, described the crosswalk as "very dangerous."

"I'm very happy they're improving the safety," Deompoc said.

Area pawn shop owner Son Pham said that in the past five years he has operated his business on King Street, he has never seen a bad accident or even a close call.

But he called the crossing safety lights "a very good idea."

"A lot of times I see kids very small kids trying to cross the street there, so I think the lights will make it much safer for them," Pham said.

Wayne Yoshioka, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, said it cost $145,000 to design and install the safety lights.

Contractor PAC Electric installed the warning lights and a solar panel that powers everything in just four days.

Yoshioka said the city simply doesn't have the money to install the light system at every crosswalk location.

"The data we collect from this application will help tell us where it would be appropriate to install the lights," he said.

The city plans to install pedestrian-activated overhead flashing lights later this year on South King Street in McCully, Yoshioka said.