Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Little Traffic Sign That Could ... Cause Three Freeway Accidents per Month!

This innocent looking NO RIGHT TURN ON RED sign installed by the City at the corner of University Avenue with Dole Street is actually the root cause of several rear-end accidents on the Kokohead or East-bound H-1 Freeway. Typically the accident happens between the University Avenue exit the Bingham Street exit.
This prohibitive sign in combination with two freeway off-ramps that carry a high volume of traffic from both sides of the freeway generate dangerous lines of cars on both sides of the freeway.

On the Ewa or West-bound side of the freeway, traffic to town is very slow because this is the peak direction. As such, the backlog of vehicles that go to University and Manoa is not particularly risky.

On the Kokohead or East-bound side, however, the freeway operates under extremely dangerous conditions. Two lanes, middle and left, flow at 50 to 60 miles per hour while the right lane crawls at less than 5 mph.

Here is the evidence of three crashes in less than 20 days!

Oct. 12, 2010 Rear end accident photographed at 8:52 AM

Oct. 20, 2010 Rear end accident photographed at 8:55 AM

Nov.4, 2010 Rear end accident photographed at 9:55 AM

These three accidents caused extensive congestion between the Pali Highway and University Avenue. The photo below shows bumper-to-bumper traffic as seen from the Wilder Avenue pedestrian overpass. The school bus in bottom left is moving over to the middle lane to avoid the blocked right lane and shoulder.

The City should take a lesson from itself from a similar twin right turn with a heavy flow of pedestrians at the corner of Ala Wai Boulevard and McCully Street where the sign reads NO RIGHT TURN ON RED Except from Right Lane After STOP. This more permissive management of traffic flow is required at the University Avenue twin right turn immediately to reduce the frequency of queues spilling onto the freeway and causing rear-end accidents.

This location has a clear and well delineated paths for pedestrians and vehicles and no obstructions. Issues relating to pedestrian safety with a permissive right turn on red are minimal. All other intersection corners around the UH-Manoa allow for right turn on red with no ill-effects to pedestrian safety.

Incidentally as far back as Monday, May 12, 1997 in the Honolulu Advertiser, page A-13, I complained about the city's uncoordinated traffic lights and referred specifically to the University/Dole intersection having substandard signalization.

Overall, the University Avenue freeway interchange needs an overhaul. Some alternatives were proposed in the past (Monday, January 31, 2000 Star Bulletin, “Engineer has ideas for improving H-1 flow”.) A final design and implementation are necessary to reduce the accidents at this high risk location which includes the only two ramps in our entire freeway system that are managed by YIELD signs!

Click for additional coverage of this issue by Hawaii News Now's Tim Sakahara.

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