Kuhio highway, in Kapa`a town starts out like any other main road in the Hawaiian islands, but then something magical happens. Traveling south, when you get to the bypass road, the otherwise simple and unassuming roadway turns into “Runway Road,” or “Obstacle Alley” or — wait are you ready for this one– Coney Island.
Ordinary lanes are reconfigured with the use of fluorescent orange road cones.
Before I came to Kaua`i, I never heard the word “contra flow” as a descriptor of a lane of traffic. Sounded like a term used in the same paragraph with the words “Alaska pipe line.”
Some highly paid engineer type or transportation planner worked many hours I’m sure, to devise this ingenious way of transforming our “northbound favored” highway into a “southbound superior” set of lanes, to accommodate the fluctuations in rush-hour traffic trends.
I like a challenge when I drive.
When the cones are out, lanes with markings that indicate “turning lane only” are just kidding. Double white lines which my driver’s education instructor told me, should never be crossed, are now to be ignored. Double yellow lines which previously protected me from a head on collision with oncoming traffic, can be totally disregarded.
Turning lanes are particularly creative. Straight lanes now have “S” curves to work around these makeshift mini detours. One can only hope that there never comes a time when more than two cars needs to go to Lydgate Beach at the same moment.
At the crack of dawn, a team of well-trained D.O.T. workers hang off the backs of three slower moving trucks, to drop the cones into place, by hand, every morning except Sundays and holidays. I have to admit, these guys are good. The rows of cones are remarkably straight and evenly spaced. The intervals are strategic, depending on how treacherous the situation at hand. I’ve often wondered, what happens if one the those guys sneezes at the moment that he is going to drop the cone? Who would correct the misplacement? The third truck, I guess.
Then, at midday, that team of cone droppers comes back out to pick them up and put them back in the truck. I’m no road cone expert, but it seems to me that the guys who put down the cones should be in a work scale classification that is one step higher than the guys who pick them up.
On O`ahu, they have a “zipper” truck that does the same thing, except it moves concrete dividers rather than rubber cones. I would feel a lot safer with concrete dividers than rubber cones… and it only takes one guy to drive the zipper truck.
But then, the zipper truck is not nearly as entertaining to watch as the human “zippers.”