Monday, July 5, 2010

Quit Whining and Start Doing Something!

A recent news report on KITV showed this report which mentions that Hawaii drivers spend over $700 a year to repair their vehicles due to damages caused by the poor conditions of our roads. The video showed cars driving over potholes and other damaged portions of the streets, as well as complaints from drivers over road conditions.

When the story broke in newspapers, I read the numerous reader comments complaining about how the government has allowed the roads to deteriorate to the condition they are in. It seemed that everyone had a complaint and everyone felt that the government was doing nothing to alleviate the problem. Even those people who admitted that City workers did fix potholes complained that the City workers used substandard equipment to fill-in the potholes and were otherwise sitting-around, talking story and getting fat.

However, I know differently. The reason I know differently is that I am one of those people who actually calls the City and the State to report potholes and other bad road conditions. It's really very simple how it all worksout: you call one of the hotlines (the City and the State each have their own) to report a pothole or other hazardous road condition, an inspector goes to the site to see how bad it is, a work order is filled-out and a repair crew is dispatched. A report I filed on a State road, in this case it was Ala Moana Blvd, took about two weeks; while a report I filed with the City took less than a week.

What people don't seem to understand is that we have hundreds of miles of paved roads in Hawaii and County workers from all islands, as well as State workers, simply don't have the ability to see every stretch of road, everywhere, all the time. It is impossible for them to see it all. They have to rely on reports from the Public (that's you and me) to call-in and let them know.

Sadly, I have to admit the Press' own negligence on this issue. I've sent Letters to the Editor mentioning the City and State pothole report numbers and none of my letters got published. Even the news reports that mentioned the bad road conditions failed to mention these numbers, as if they didn't exist. But, they do exist and the people who answer the phones are very eager to take those reports, pass them on to the repair cres and get those problems fixed, despite what the government-bashers want you to think.

What really surprises me about all this is that people who should be reporting potholes, aren't. At least the ones I've encountered. A few examples:
  • On Kapiolani Blvd, near Pi'ikoi, there's a Bus stop. One day, I rode my bike up Pi'ikoi and stopped at the light, which is right next to the Bus stop. I saw several buses riding over the same pothole, which was so large that each bus shook from the impact of driving over it. The problem was that the pothole was in such a location that every bus that pulled away from the stop had to hit it. There was absolutely no way for them to avoid it, so the pothole counted each bus as a victim. I figured that Bus drivers would be reporting it and it would get fixed. I was wrong. The next week, I rode past the same spot and the pothole was still there. I hadn't reported it myself because I didn't have the hotline number saved to my cellphone. But, on my second trip, I did. I reported the pothole and it was fixed within a week. So, every bus that had hit that pothole could have been saved from its effects if just one driver had called it in. But none of them did. It took some guy on a bicycle to do it for them. But, it's not like these guys have to pay for the repairs that have to be done on the buses, since that's done by the Bus company and the City.
  • I spoke to a police officer in Waikiki one day and asked them if police on patrol were supposed to report bad road conditions, like potholes. He told me that they are not and he didn't even know if there was a number to call.
  • There is a pothole on Reed Lane, which is a little side street off of South Street, in the Downtown area. This not unusual, by itself, except for the fact that this pothole is located behind the First Circuit Courthouse! So, despite the fact that the pothole is in a location where it could be seen on a daily basis by State workers, no one seems to have called it in. I even found the pothole on Google maps where it allows you to see the view at street level.
  • Aside from potholes near the courthouse on a street most people might not even realize exists, the sidewalks on Punchbowl between Halekauwila and Pohukaina are in such a sorry condition that it seems that elderly people and the disabled would have a hard time traversing them. This went on for a long time, but I finally call the City to complain and the City administration - Mr Lester Hirano, specifically - has had the sidewalk examined by a City crew and it should be resurfaced some time in July. With all the City and State workers walking over this sidewalk, including the Mayor himself, you have to wonder why it took some guy like me to call it in. This is going to be a big job on a well-traveled piece of sidewalk, so I understand the time-frame between reporting it and the work being done.
I can see how cops might not have the time to call-in potholes, due to their workload. But, when you consider how bus drivers and State workers who see the same pothole every day, but don't call it in and you can see my frustration with this whole thing.

So, if you want to report potholes that you find out on the roads, you can call one of these numbers:

State roads: If the pothole is on a state road or highway — including Likelike, most of Kamehameha, Kahekili, Nimitz, Pali, most of Farrington, Kalaniana'ole, H-1, H-2 or H-3 (including on- and off-ramps), Ala Moana or Vineyard Boulevard — call the state pothole report line at 808-536-7852.

City roads: report potholes at 808-768-7777 or you can file a report online here. For other problems, like Traffic Signals, Curbs or Gutters, Abandoned Vehicles, Street Lights, Sewers or Storm Drains, Public Restrooms, Road or Street Conditions, Sidewalks, Parks or Beaches, Street Trees, Refuse / Bulky Item Pickup, Playground / Equipment, Street Signs, Fire Hydrants, and other City property (paid for with your tax dollars) you can call the City's complaint line at 808-768-4381 or file a report online at this link.

I can just hear some of the responses that the whiners will have about this blog: that it will take forever, if ever for the City or State to get-around to fixing it. Maybe, but how long will it take them to fix it if nobody reports it?

Save these numbers on your cellphone and bookmark the web links provided, so you can stop being one of the whiners who doesn't do anything but complain and become one of the people who actually is doing something to improve the quality of life for all of us and save drivers the cost of repairing their vehicles.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Duane Browning

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