Friday, July 20, 2007

Using cane haul roads to alleviate highway closures

On Wednesday night, the H-1 near the airport viaduct was closed for over 6 hours, from 7:45 p.m. to 2:10 a.m., due to a one-car crash. In the future, highway closure time could be shortened, and the impact to motorists alleviated, due to HB1608, signed into law as Act 141, introduced by freshman Rep. Angus McKelvey. McKelvey's District 10 on Maui includes Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua and Kihei, and is an area where there is one way in and one way out. A traffic emergency and road closure puts this district in jeopardy.

The bill gives authority to the Governor, the state Director of Transportation, the 4 county Mayors and the county Directors of Transportation, to designate an area as a "traffic emergency zone". This is defined as an area that is accessible by only one state highway, and the public health and safety would be endangered by the closure of the highway due to a traffic accident, natural disaster, or other emergency. The bill allows the state or county to designate the old cane haul roads as a temporary state highway and indemnifies the owner of the cane haul road from liability. The cane haul roads were once an important transportation system for Hawaii at a time when our state's economy was driven by agriculture. They now have the potential to be an important part of the state's emergency traffic plan.

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