Kakaako can't get along on four-way stop signs

October 2nd, 2012

ThinkTech Hawaii

Pohukaina and Cooke is the ground zero of Kakaako. That’s a real honor for any intersection.

It’s not only that the intersection ts decked with street art, but also that the traffic seems to converge there. The cars come through Diamond Head from downtown, and from Queen to makai, the new 680 Ala Moana building and the Medical School, and vice versa.

This is now a real thoroughfare, reflecting that Kakaako is attracting not only transit but activity. There are more shops and places to see and go. There’s life here. It has begun to take on the trappings of a neighborhood, although it’s far from being a community.

There’s still parking available on the street, and there are no condos, no chain stores and only a few restaurants. Walk east for the new UFC gym and the newly renovated expanded Box Jelly. Walk west for the Friday Eat the Street lunch wagon festival. Feel the pulse.

This Is It Bakery and Deli is down the block, Hanks’ Haut Dogs and the Whole Ox are two blocks down. Mother Waldron Park is right at the intersection. It’s a great park, although it ought to be mowed more often.

All these points are within a stone’s throw and are now coming together. They all point to Pohukaina and Cooke as ground zero. Look in any direction and you can see the promise and prospect of the new Kakaako. It’s right there.

In January, Kamehameha Schools will be doing a major renovation on the R&D and Greenhouse block of Pohukaina. That will confirm these suspicions and pave the way for new vitality and bigger development. We can hardly wait.

But here’s the thing: Pohukaina and Cooke is designed as a four-way stop sign intersection. All the cars have to stop for the cross traffic. This wasn’t a problem a few years ago because there was nobody there to stop. Now, the traffic is want to stack up.

Increasingly, everyone has to wait his turn for stack of cross traffic to clear. Sometimes, often, you have to wait for several cars to get through ahead of you, not one but half a dozen or more. Try it at lunch time and you’ll see.

The cooperative utopia of a four-way intersection is now being badly strained. Ground zero has of late become a real intersection with real traffic. Kakaako is emerging as a gathering place in the shadow of downtown, and this and other intersections need real traffic lights.

Of course, real traffic lights cost money. Nevertheless, HCDA ought to install one here. It’s not something that can wait for legislative action in years to come; it’s become necessary right now. After all this time, quiet Kakaako is becoming a high traffic neighborhood.

Every time I pass through ground zero I ask myself why isn’t there a light here, not just to avoid four-way accidents (a real consideration), but to mark the growth that’s already happening, and to respect the efforts of those who are working so hard to build the neighborhood.

And if I ask myself that question, I’m sure other people are asking the same question. Kakaako is arising, so when exactly will the lights come? That’s part of the infrastructure too. We’ll be watching and thinking about this, and we hope HCDA is too.

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