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New council will evaluate effectiveness of Hawaii DOT

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(The Center Square) – A newly created council will delve into the effectiveness of Hawaii’s Department of Transportation.

Act 242, signed by Gov. Josh Green this week, established the council, which renamed the Highway Safety Council to the Hawaii Highway Safety and Modernization Council. The new council will be comprised of 12 citizen members appointed by the governor from various sectors, including senior citizens, and the trucking, labor and construction industries, along with state officials.

“The legislature finds that the department of transportation manages and spends more taxpayer dollars than nearly any other state agency,” the act reads. “…{T}he purpose of this Act is to amend the name, composition and duties of the state highway safety council to make the council an independently led group of expert stakeholders that may review the department of transportation’s efforts to ensure transparency and provide guidance to the department and legislature to help achieve state transportation goals and outcomes.”

The House speaker and Senate president will appoint the council’s president on a rotating basis.

The bill is one of seven signed by Green that lawmakers hope will make roadways safer. The state documented 117 fatalities and 600 serious injuries in roadway accidents last year, according to Sen. Chris Lee, chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Culture and the Arts. Forty-three people have died in accidents in 2023.

“This is unacceptable and should not be occurring,’ Green said. “We need these numbers to go down so our communities will be safer and we can prevent losing more lives to preventable tragedies.”

The governor also signed a bill establishing the Safe Routes to School Advisory Committee. The committee is tasked with developing a comprehensive, statewide plan for school routes.

“Traffic safety has been a major concern in our school community for years, and this was highlighted most recently by the pedestrian fatality near our school,” said Cherilyn Inouye, principal of Kaʻelepulu Elementary School in Kailua.

Another bill bars large trucks and commercial vehicles from driving in the left lane of traffic beginning Jan. 1, 2024.

The Hawaii Transportation Association opposed the bill.

“Any vehicle that pays all registration and weight fees should be allowed to travel in any lane while observing legal speeds as traffic and other conditions permit,” Gareth Sakakida, HTA’s managing director, said in testimony.

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