This is not excellent
Although there are some individual features in our infrastructure that are worthy, no one can say that the infrastructure in our state is excellent or demonstrates a striving for excellence.
To wit, the public thoroughfares, roads and highways. In Honolulu, there is no sign of excellence. That's regrettable, since we do know what excellence is, and so do our visitors. It starts with the potholes and the failure to systematically pave. There are very few places in Oahu that are well paved. That sends a message to everyone who must use the road.
We all know maintenance is random and substandard. See the potholes everywhere. Beyond that, the roads are not well-designed and haven't been fixed to keep up with changes in the city. Take a look at the Pali Highway. It's a sole-source road on a critical path to get to Kailua, an important pathway from the downtown to a commuter community. Then take a look at the freeway. These roads are inadequate and nothing is being done.
Our patchwork jurisdictions on Oahu’s roads brings only bureaucracy and confusion as to who is responsible, and stands squarely in the way of any standard of excellence. And of course, there are flash jams all over the city, on all points of the compass, with an abiding disrespect of motorists by maintenance and police organizations. They seem to enjoy letting the traffic stack up. There's got to be a better way.
Where are the engineers, the technology? Where are the traffic circles, the timed lights, the roadbed sensors, the software and HOV charges other cities have deployed to ameliorate the jams? We reject the technology to detect speeders and lawbreakers at red lights and stop signs, knowing that the police cannot deal with these problems without technology. Do we want the roads to be safer, or are we bent on giving lawbreakers a pass?
It would help if campaigners would make this a campaign issue, but they haven’t. If we can develop the political will to make our streets a symbol of excellence, then maybe we can achieve excellence in other ways too. We’ve got to start somewhere. Unfortunately, we don’t have the political will and we don’t spend anything to improve our sadly substandard roadways. Instead, we spend it on rail. What a waste in a place where the car is king and will surely continue to be a primary modality.
We sit for hours in jams, and in a perverse Zenlike acceptance we so nothing about it, having a strange assumption that God in his heaven will fix it. And all the while it gets worse, and our quality of life slowly deteriorates, like the frog in the water. We need to be mad as hell and we should take it anymore. We need to make our political leadership accountable and openly force them to make our roads a symbol of pride, not potholes.
Excellence is not only impressing tourists. It’s a statement of our values and caring for the community. It’s a message that says we like if not love this place, that we want it to as perfect as possible and that we want our children to stay and live here. If we didn’t care about it, it signals there are many other things we don’t care about. I don’t have to tell you the message that that sends to people, and that sends people, and kids, away.
State and county governments have to come together about this. The media and local community organizations have to demand and keep advocating for it. Yes, we can do it, but let’s do it soon, before everyone gets to feel Hawaii is second class. Excellence and pride in our city and community are infectious. Let's feel good about Hawaii. The results will be fabulous.
A commentary by Jay Fidell