By Anthony Pignataro
So the other night I was driving to the other side and I noticed for some reason that though there were lights installed in the Pali tunnel, they were not on. Nor could I remember ever seeing them on, at night or any other time.
Suddenly terrified of having to drive through the tunnel in the dark (it takes about two seconds at 45 miles per hour, after all), I asked Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesman Dan Meisenzahl (formerly of KITV news anchor/reporter fame). According to Meisenzahl, the good news is state workers will be out this Saturday night (Oct. 22) installing new lights. But then Meisenzahl told me a dark, haunting tale of just how the lights came to be broken.
The whole system, according to Meisenzahl, isn’t actually designed to be used at night. Installed years ago, the lights are for the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians who pass through the tunnel. At either end or push buttons (similar to those at crosswalk intersections) that activate the lights, which are solar-powered.
But it seems this isn’t the first time state DOT workers have had to go into the tunnel to repair the lights. In fact, they’ve had to do so on two previous occasions. Apparently, person or persons unknown have been slipping in under the cover of darkness to do nefarious things to the solar panels that power the lights.
“The solar panels were stolen not once, but twice,” Meisenzahl said. “We did a lot of improvements to secure the system.”
Anyway, even though state crews will be working on the lights this weekend, Meisenzahl said not to expect to see them on anytime soon. His reason: something even more unholy than solar panel thieves may interfere with the crews’ work.
“After the lights are hung, we will still have a lot of work to do including checking wiring that has been dormant for some years now,” Meisenzahl said. “We do not expect the lights to be operational for a couple of months. We anticipate the crews will probably get pulled off the job along the way as higher priority items come up.”
Higher priority items? Terrifying!
Photo by Scrappers