After pole’s collapse nearly hit cars, city eyes islandwide inspection of traffic signals

The city is considering hiring a private contractor to inspect all its traffic signals after a pole collapsed during rush hour traffic.
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 4:26 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2023 at 5:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city is considering hiring a private contractor to inspect all its traffic signals after a pole collapsed during rush hour traffic on Kapiolani Boulevard last month, nearly crushing a car.

The proposal comes after a series of winter storms that battered the island with high winds.

On Friday, traffic signal electricians were at the intersection of Kamehameha Highway and Keole Street to replace a light damaged by high winds.

Honolulu Traffic Signal and Technology Division Chief Ty Fukumitsu said crews took it down earlier this week after a driver called saying it was barely hanging on.

Officials say the traffic signal is one of hundreds impacted by the recent weather that triggered everything from power outages to full on structural failure.

Two weeks ago, that pole at the corner of Kapiolani Boulevard near Ward Avenue snapped. The broken fragments narrowly missed a driver passing underneath.

“It was an internal corrosion,” Fukumitsu said.

He said the base of the pole had rusted out and couldn’t withstand the wind.

It’s the second time it’s happened at an intersection in town in less than 10 years.

In 2016, traffic lights fell across King Street in Iwilei.

According to the Transportation Services Director at the time, that pole was also rusted at its base.

All total, the island has more than 850 traffic signals and just 12 traffic signal electricians who are responsible for all maintenance and operations.

While the city says it tries to inspect every pole at least once a year, that doesn’t always happen because crews are stretched thin.

HNN asked for the inspection report for the traffic signal pole that collapsed on Kapiolani Boulevard.

Officials said it had been checked within the past year and there were no issues, but HNN couldn’t get a copy of the document because the city doesn’t keep official reports.

Fukimitsu said structural checks typically happen when crews respond to a trouble call after they make repairs. That’s what happened Friday in Kaneohe. Workers could be seen using instruments to examine the base of each pole.

“Probably we’re going to have to hire a consultant or someone to do the inspection for us,” said Fukumitsu.

There’s no estimate yet for how much that might cost, but officials are hoping to cover at least part of the bill with federal funding.

Fukumitsu says he plans to officially pitch the idea for a private contractor in September so that it can be included in next year’s budget.