HECO pole is center of attention in one Kaneohe neighborhood

Published  5:52 PM HST Jul 09, 2013
KANEOHE, Hawaii -

A Hawaiian Electric support pole may be doing more harm than good in one Kaneohe neighborhood. Some residents want it removed but can anything be done?

"You can see it's dangerous," says Ben Baniaga, a Kaneohe resident referring to the sidewalk fronting The Salvation Army on Waikalua road.

The walkway is often the road less traveled, but there's nothing poetic about it.

"We got these telephone poles in the middle of the walk(way) and we cannot go in the middle of the walk(way)," says Roland Ahuna, a Kaneohe resident.

"There's less than 2 feet width here and no wheelchair will be able to go through," says Baniaga.

Roland Ahuna says he has to skip the sidewalk and use Waikalua road because he's already crashed his scooter twice on the walkway. There's a HECO support pole in his way.

"A lot of places around here, the handicapped have no chance, we got to use the road," says Ahuna.

The sidewalk has 28 inches of clearance, which is 8 inches short of federal guidelines. Baniaga says he's been bringing this to the city's attention for years.

In that time, he says he's witnessed other people in wheelchairs suffer through some close calls.

"All of these cars will be coming by blaring their horns and cussing under their breath. Why is this guy on the road?" says Baniaga.

HECO says removing the support pole would create a safety risk for drivers and pedestrians.

"We've (HECO) determined the current placement of poles allows for the safest, most practical option," says Darren Pai, HECO spokesperson.

Baniaga says that's ridiculous and even if this pole stays, he says the city needs to focus on the bigger issue, creating a sidewalk that meets ADA standards. That translates to a fully cement path 36 inches wide.

"There's just hundreds of miles of sidewalks currently not compliant with ADA," says Chris Takashige, Director of the Department of Design and Construction.

City officials say a program to rework the sidewalks sounds good but money's the issue. Kaneohe residents are tired of excuses.

"What needed to be done 10 years ago will always be put off 20 years from now, says Baniaga.

City officials tells us there are ways for new sidewalks to be put into neighborhoods.

There's a rule called "touch it fix it," meaning if the city makes any sidewalk repairs, it has to bring the whole sidewalk up to ADA standards.

Otherwise, residents can go through an improvement district process, where community members would split the cost of repairs with the city.

Do you want to print this page now?