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Saturday, August 3, 2019
Laniakea Turtle Beach Pedestrian Accident Sparks Blame Game
By News Release @ 3:47 PM :: 3447 Views :: Tourism


News Release from HDoT, Aug 2, 2019

HONOLULU – The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) is saddened by the pedestrian collision August 1 that resulted in a young boy being transported to the hospital in serious condition. HDOT is confident that if the barriers were in place this collision would not have happened.

A timeline of the attempts to improve traffic safety and flow on Kamehameha Highway at Laniakea Beach follows:

  • 2011 – a community-based task force is assembled to address solutions to shoreline erosion and roadway reliability for Kamehameha Highway fronting Laniakea Beach and Chun’s Reef. The Kamehameha Highway Barrier Project, Vicinity of Laniakea Beach is developed in response. Other alternatives discussed include parking on City and County of Honolulu property adjacent to the highway. Alternatives on City land are considered and dismissed as HDOT could not meet City’s indemnification requirements (determined in meetings with City Corporation Counsel in February and June 2012).
  • December 23, 2013 – HDOT installs an approximately 1,000-foot concrete barrier on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway to reduce random pedestrian crossings and pedestrian/vehicle conflicts at Laniakea Beach. The barriers were proven to reduce vehicular conflicts and maintain traffic flow on Kamehameha Highway.
  • January 2, 2014 – Lawsuit filed by Save Laniakea Coalition and five individuals to remove the barriers.
  • June 4, 2015 – First Circuit Court hears case (Civil No. 14-1-0005-01) against HDOT and issues injunction on July 8 requiring HDOT to remove the barriers.
  • August 24, 2015 – HDOT moves the barriers; installs “no parking, stopping, standing, loading and unloading signs and continues working to obtain the Special Management Area (SMA) permit to reinstall the barriers.
  • 2016 – HDOT begins draft Environmental Assessment to support the SMA permit application. In October, HDOT is informed that the proposed location for the Laniakea Barriers is likely within the Conservation District instead of the Special Management Area and is advised to consult with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
  • July 6, 2017 – HDOT submits Shoreline Certification application to DLNR. A community member files a Notice to Appeal and the shoreline certification request is denied on July 5, 2018, based on the earlier barrier installation being considered an unauthorized improvement.
  • October 26, 2018 – HDOT submits second Shoreline Certification application with the Right of Entry agreement with the City attached as proof of the City’s authorization for HDOT to store the barriers. DLNR’s determination on this second application is due August 19, 2019.
  • June 24, 2019 – HDOT’s legal representative offers an interim solution of reinstallation of the barriers with openings on either end and a marked crosswalk on the Waimea side.
  • July 29, 2019 – The plaintiffs’ representative sends a counter proposal that would require taking of City land to add additional parking and room for a “waiting” lane.

Any construction option such as the counter proposal by the plaintiffs or those mentioned by area legislators as potential solutions, such as pedestrian overpasses, underpasses, and traffic signals require environmental approvals by law and sufficient funding.

In the meantime, HDOT continues to study a new road alignment that can be constructed when funding is available. In a July 26, 2019 meeting with City officials and area legislators it was determined that no additional funding was currently available for the proposed realignment. The preferred realignment is estimated at $65 million.

HDOT continued to pursue the barriers as an immediate means to improve safety and reduce congestion in the area; however, as HDOT has been told that the Shoreline Certification will likely result in a contested case hearing, we will remove the barriers. HDOT has now directed its consultant to pursue environmental clearance to move the road mauka within the highway Right-of-way to allow for limited parking on the makai side of the road. This measure is estimated to cost between $6-8 million and would take approximately 2-years to obtain the necessary environmental clearances.

  *   *   *   *   *

ILind: Response from Bill Saunders, an attorney representing the Save Laniakea Coalition in litigation regarding the Laniakea traffic solution. His response came in a letter addressed to Deputy Attorney General John H. Price, who represents DOT

As you know, there was a tragic accident in the area of the Laniakea surf spot yesterday. I just received a copy of the State DOT’s news release attempting to foist off blame for the situation at Laniakea with vague and inaccurate references to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs and the community that opposed the initial illegal placement of barriers. The news release is deliberately misleading and omits a number of key facts and dates, including all the times we tried to have this matter settled by proposing virtually the identical solution contained in your email dated June 24, 2019, which was falsely portrayed as something the DOT initialed, but was really a month-old response to my email.

As you know, we have repeatedly proposed a solution and have indicated that we will cooperate with getting the court’s interim approval so the lengthy permit process can be avoided and safe parking, access and traffic control can be achieved in the short tem pending issuance of permits. We have been seeking this since July 29,2015, a month the after the injunction was entered — EVEN BEFORE THE INITIAL BARRIERS WERE REMOVED!

I am attaching for your reference a number of emails and other documents that show our repeated attempts to try to settle this matter with DOT over the past 4 years. I am also attaching numerous emails I sent to elected officials proposing the same solution.I demand that you have your client correct the record by including in a revised press release all of these dates and details to supplement the selective, misleading and self-serving chronology that it disseminated to the media. To provide a head start, I am copying a number of media entities on this email and including the attachments.

What is just as troubling and shows the mind set of DOT, a few days ago a conference was held which included the DOT’s Deputy Director for Highways, Ed Sniffen, the mayor and a number of other government officials. In discussions with these officials, when questioned about the Laniakea situation, Mr. Sniffen reportedly made statements to the effect that DOT has been trying repeatedly to settle this matter and that the plaintiffs’ attorney (ME), just never respond or belatedly respond. That was a flat out lie as the attached documentation and correspondence will show.

I find it very Trumpian at a time like this, when there has been a tragic accident, for the DOT to purposefully distort the record, provide “alternate facts,” and try to lay off blame on others, including me and my clients.

Shortly after the court’s injunction requiring removal of the barriers was entered, we approached your client with a solution and discussed it with the judge at a settlement conference. To refresh your recollection, I am enclosing our settlement conference statement which sets forth our position at that time – 29, 2015. That position has not changed and we have been trying for years to get the DOT to approve this solution. It wasn’t until late June of this that you responded to my email of May 13 and that DOT made any effort work with us or accept our long-proposed solution. Unfortunately, that willingness came four years too late and a tragic accident has occurred in the meantime.

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August 1, 2019 Coverage:


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