Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What Lies Beneath? Questions Raised About Infrastructure Below

Quoted in Gina Mangieri's "Always Investigating" extensive coverage of the problems with underground cavities and sinkholes in Kakaako, What lies beneath? As Kakaako develops up, questions raised about infrastructure below.

This broken culvert was discovered in spring 2017 and required emergency repairs.


Driving through Kakaako lately has meant navigating a maze of emergency road work after underground near-collapses and even sink holes have popped up in the area.

“We have so many streets,” explained Panos Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii civil and environmental engineering professor, “so many likelihoods of a potential sinkhole.”

That’s because Kakaako was once a low-lying marsh, perfect for fishponds, salt, rice, and taro, but trickier for roadways and urban development we see now.

UH experts Always Investigating spoke with say the buckling roads are giving us signs of three things to watch out for:

Age of infrastructure like underground drainage culverts;
Rising sea levels and groundwater; and
Soil problems common to coastal areas.
“We have clay and sand, things that are easy to dissolve,” said Prevedouros, “and then because we have intrusion of sea water, or perhaps pipes, storm drains, and even sewers breaking, all that has the effect of diluting the soil and creating all kinds of cavities which pose a major threat to public safety.”


Experts agree the new structures are built to last and take all coastal-zone geographical challenges into account.

“The newer the buildings, the safer they are,” Prevedouros said. “The older buildings, they may start having problems with their foundations and they may have some tilting. Eventually they will have to have significant repairs and eventually demolition and reconstruction.”


“One of the side benefits of the rail project is they can help us with the geo-technical investigations they have done,” Prevedouros said, “and actually they can inform the neighborhood as to the stability of the soils, because they have to do it for their own foundations. Unless you plan to put a big rail or a big road in the area, you cannot simply start poking holes. It’s simply too expensive.”


Friday, October 27, 2017

Rail Work Kicks off Airport Leg

Quoted in Jim Mendoza's coverage of rail construction Phase 3: Aloha Stadium to the airport and the Middle Street terminus.

University of Hawaii traffic expert Panos Prevedouros thinks that's where the contractors will face their biggest hurdle.

"When they hit Aolele Street there is essentially an S-curve, one right hand turn followed by a left hand turn which is quite challenging to do in infrastructure. There's also a lot of elevation. You have all the ramps from the freeway going to the airport," he said.


Kiewit's work on the first ten miles inconvenienced drivers and harmed businesses. Prevedouros expects STG's work to do the same..

"There will be disruptions and there may be at times major disruptions due to safety," he said.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bob Poole: Facing Reality on a Shared-Vehicle Future

The cover story of the current issue of Thinking Highways takes on the question of whether an autonomous vehicle future will be largely one of shared AVs or individually owned AVs. Authors Bern Grush and Blair Schlecter rightly begin by asserting that "the ownership question is more important than automation." They also start by telegraphing their conclusion: "That private ownership will cease or become rare is wishful thinking—at least for the next half-century and for any country whose government will not ban ownership."
This conclusion surprised me, because I've read a lot that Bern Grush has written on AVs, and he's made it clear that he would prefer a future in which shared AVs largely win out over individually owned AVs. But that makes his honest look at the obstacles to that future all the more compelling.
Blair and Schlecter begin by contrasting the two predominant views of the future, as follows:
  • According to the environmental and livability perspective, the ideal future would be based on vehicles that are automated, connected, electric, and shared (ACES).
  • But the ideal AV future for most drivers would be vehicles that are comfortable, affordable, fast, and instantly available (CAFI).
And they point out that "The ACES-CAFI difference is the divide between what planners wish and consumers want. This gap is now very wide. It has to be closed in order to achieve the holy grail of having most people use 'mobility as a service' (MaaS) rather than owning their own vehicle."
The key to understanding the authors' conclusion is their clear-eyed assessment of serving "travelers with non-routine needs." They identify eight such categories, as follows.
  1. Travelers with children, who may need car safety seats for young ones and will also be concerned about the sanitary condition of the vehicles;
  2. Travelers who trip-chain, e.g., making multiple stops on the way to or from work;
  3. Travelers who are disabled or elderly, and have difficulty getting in and out of standardized vehicles;
  4. Baby boomer travelers, a huge cohort over the next several decades, who hope to age in place and will relish the ability to preserve their current mobility via owning an AV;
  5. Travelers with pets or helper animals—another category not likely to be acceptable to the other passengers in a shared AV;
  6. Travelers who smoke—ditto;
  7. Travelers concerned about communicable diseases; and,
  8. Travelers who need carrying and storage capacity, which includes not only shoppers but also service providers such as pool cleaners, plumbers, electricians, etc.
This should be a sobering message for those who glibly predict the imminent displacement of individually owner vehicles by Mobility as a Service. I close with a concluding thought from Grush and Schlecter:

"Currently, the ideal [shared] vehicle fleet would satisfy only a fraction of user trips. For every pet taken in a pet-free vehicle or smoker using a smoke-free car, a robo-ride user might be disappointed and encouraged to buy a car or join an exclusive-car club, diminishing the pool of riders for massive robo-fleets and the efficiency of massive, relatively uniform, coordinated fleets."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kapiolani Blvd. Contraflow Lane Doing More Harm Than Good?

Quoted in Honolulu Civil BeatCouncilman: Contraflow Lane Is Doing More Harm Than Good, Honolulu, Natanya Friedheim, Oct. 11, 2017.

Panos Prevedouros, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Hawaii, thinks the contraflow lane is useful to Koko Head-bound drivers in the afternoon, and would change his mind only if data showed the lane causes inefficiencies. 

In 2016 DTS published a report on the effect of contraflow lanes on major Honolulu roadways. The study recommended the city keep the Kapiolani contraflow lane. It also found that while the restrictions on left turns cause drivers to alter their route, it provides a safer driving environment.

“My feeling is that there was a purpose why we did it and the purpose has not changed,” Prevedouros said of the contraflow lane. “(If there is) credible data saying going back to three lanes is OK, I’m somewhat in disbelief, but you can trust the data.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hawaii’s Infrastructure Upkeep Ranks Last

Quoted in Honolulu Star Advertiser, Hawaii’s infrastructure upkeep ranks last in a financial website’s assessment, Nanea Kalani, October 10, 2017.

University of Hawaii civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros said that while Hawaii’s aging infrastructure tends to fare poorly in national rankings, he was surprised the state landed in the bottom spot. He said Hawaii typically earns a D+ or D- grade on the American Society of Engineers’ infrastructure report card, which comes out every four years and evaluates such areas as roads, bridges, dams, airports, harbors and public transportation.

“We’ve been doing poorly, but what is very surprising is that we came in dead last. Obviously, it’s not encouraging — we have hit rock bottom,” said Prevedouros, chairman of the Civil Engineering Department at UH-Manoa.

Within the categories of the “Falling Apart” report, Hawaii had the highest percentage of dams in the country with “high-hazard potential” ratings, at 93 percent. According to the National Inventory of Dams maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 124 of the state’s 133 dams have been assigned the hazardous classification, indicating that failure or mis-operation is likely to cause loss of human life and economic and environmental losses.

Close to 70 percent of the dams in Hawaii are on privately owned land. A spokesman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which runs the state’s dam safety program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“That’s almost a given when you have earthen dams,” Prevedouros said of the high-hazard risk ratings. “It’s very difficult to know how the structures are performing without careful inspection.” He said most of the islands’ dams are old and in need of more maintenance and upkeep to ensure public health and safety. He cited Nuuanu Reservoir as a particularly risky dam given its close proximity to residential areas.

“It’s pretty clear that the state and the city do not pay much attention to the condition and the operation of the roads,” Prevedouros said. “They’re both in poor quality and operating poorly with a lot of congestion. Clearly, now the numbers show we are in a lose-lose situation, where we are spending the money on the wrong projects, and the big categories that affect the well-being of the population are being neglected.”