9/24/22 #kihei #highschool #underpass #hdot

Before we report on the event Sep 22, 2022 at the middle school presented by the two professional firms contracted by the Department of Education (DOE) this year, we will clarify some prior comments. We had stated these were both “PR firms”, meaning public relations, which is the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization. We did this as we watched DOE arrogantly paint itself into a corner, ignoring the legally required condition for the grade-separated pedestrian crossing (GSPC) before the school could open for almost a DECADE, and now looking for a way out, hired two professional firms to do so. They needed to change the community perception that they were ignoring child safety for no good reason.

However the owner of one firm, Teena Rasmussen, objected, saying they were not in the public relations business. She offers that the Oahu firm G70 Design is the prime contractor conducting the study – an engineering and planning firm.

G 7o Team involved in this action regarding the crossing to the Hign School

Her firm, based on Maui, Skog Rasmussen LLC is a group of consultants who work on community and economic development projects. However, their current project is very obviously about changing public perception to no longer care so much about child safety, a “PR job” if there ever was one.

So what did they offer to the community on Thursday?

The “surveys” put to the community asked which of a set of predefined options are acceptable for opening the school without the mandated GSPC. Many of those responding to the survey have written to KCA that “all the options presented were ridiculous and unacceptable”, and that the obvious option was not included: follow the law, place safety first, build the raised pathway along Waipuilani Gulch (see drawing below). The raised pathway can be put in place within a year for a fraction of the cost of any of the DOE proposals, at least if Goodfellow Brothers or another local company is hired to do the work.

We found these “examples” very poor ones as they have absolutely nothing to do with what we have  at the site. Would  it not have been better to take pictures at the location right up the road as our volunteers did?

Rendering of how path would be located in the actual existing underpass at Waipuilani Stream

Waipuilani Gulch Underpass

Waipuilani Gulch Underpass Inspection

Do the consulting company pictures look anything like the actual location? No one has proposed drilling a tunnel under the highway, so why are these ridiculous examples proposed as the only things the DOE will consider?

Meanwhile, one man’s quest to prevent a safe crossing of the highway before the school opens, as required by the Land Use Commission and the County, continues. DOT Deputy Director Ed Sniffen says:

We are providing a safe crossing to allow the school to open for the first phase while the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) studies the need for a grade separated crossing for future phases of the school. As stated above, the roundabout is a solution that will keep all users safe for all phases of the school. However, the HIDOE will continue to study the need for a grade separated crossing.

In Sniffen’s world, “a safe crossing” is for the kids to cross the highway with only flashing yellow lights to protect them. The time to study the need for a GSPC was ten years ago, and the decision was made already back then that a GSPC is required in order for the school to open, since most of the students will be coming from makai of the highway.

Here is another poster from the event:  

We have to wonder if they are aware that the DOE can’t even sustain their current school bus system on Maui due to insufficient number of qualified  drivers. West Maui alone has six non-functioning routes now. If they cannot even do that how will they expand the number of routes? In Maui Now, principal Maxwell is quoted as proposing “purchasing 14-passenger van shuttles that don’t require the driver to have a special commercial driver’s license“. Does it increase or decrease the safety of the passengers to have drivers without a commercial driver’s license?  Further, since the DOE wasted almost a decade and still has not begun the most preliminary action to construct a GSPC, each additional year would bring more students, as they expand to all grades. Very likely there would be no GSPC in place when all grade levels were in place, with 205 students crossing the highway by the DOE’s estimates. How many buses with how many drivers?  Is this wishful thinking?

As for other “solution”, would this have guards at the location all day, and possibly evenings, or only at opening and closing of school? Who safeguards the occasional crosser who needs to cross for any number of reasons at all times?  Are those kids just on their own and expendable?

Hmmmmm?  Assumptions? Is there another assumption to just ignore the clearly stated and explicitly confirmed LUC condition that the GSPC must be in place BEFORE the school opens? Is this lack of awareness or a decision to just violate the requirement?

Many also wonder why enrollment in the very large new school is so low, only 30 so far. Principal Maxwell says it is due to “the lack of athletic, band, culinary and other extracurricular programs”, but the consulting companies found that many parents are unwilling to commit their children to the new school without a safe crossing. Neither of those reasons surprise us. Safety comes first for most of us.

Ho Boy! While many of these stats seem questionable, let’s look at the timelines. The very longest, 7.5 years, shows DOE could easily have completed the legal requirement set about 9 years ago, instead of  planning to violate it. But the real time and cost for an underpass at the Waipuilani Gulch is only a fraction of the politically motivated claims in the slide.

From what we have heard, the DOE is planning to ask the LUC again in November to remove the safe crossing requirement and let them open the school without it, even though the LUC has consistently and unanimously rejected the request, putting safety first, as most parents would.

If you feel that the safety of the school kids should be prioritized above the ego of Deputy Director Sniffen and the DOE, ask Governor Ige to put an end to the delays and required the DOT and DOE to comply with the safe crossing requirement put in place by the LUC.

Contact the Governor


Related Images: