December 1996: Waikiki Special District
By: C. S. Papacostas

The Honolulu City Council is grappling with the future of the Waikiki Special District, so designated in 1976.

Among the elements of the debate are open space, controlled density, and the elusive "Hawaiian sense of place."

An excellent book entitled "The View from Diamond Head: Royal Residence to Urban Resort" by Don Hibbard and David Franzen provides a glimpse to Waikiki's history and past visions about its future.

Long before the reign of Kakuhihewa during the 1500s, Waikiki was the seat of power for Oahu. It remained so until 1809 when Kamehameha I moved his court to Honolulu. Waikiki (meaning "spouting waters") got its name from springs that fed taro lands.

Before the Ala Wai canal drained the area in the late 1930s and spurred subdivision, Waikiki was the site of royal residences and palatial houses of foreign families who, after the 1848 Great Mahele, were permitted to own land.

The visitor industry started in 1881 with a bathhouse, the Long Branch, and the first hotel, the Waikiki Inn, in 1899.

Four years later, the Honolulu Rapid Transit Co. opened the area to Honolulu residents with a line from downtown and the Waikiki Aquarium as an end-of-the-line attraction. Zoning ordinances in 1927 concentrated commercial activity on Kalakaua Avenue.

Among the events that generated visceral debate as to what constitutes appropriate development in Waikiki were the aquisition of the Kalia area (Fort DeRussy) by the U.S War Department between 1904 and 1910 and the opening of the Aloha Amusement Park nearby in 1922.

Opposing the latter, the Outdoor Circle and most residents called it an "atrocious ballyhoo bazaar" in contrast to the Advertiser's description as "another laurel to the wreath of Honolulu's progressiveness."

More than a dozen plans for the area have been issued since 1906. They include:

All agree on the need for controlled growth and open space but differ significantly on how to reach these goals.

November 1996: State General Plan - A Hawaii First
By: C. S. Papacostas

Hawaii was first among the fifty states to develop and adopt a State General Plan.

​What was issued in 1961 as The General Plan of the State of Hawaii was actually authorized by the 1957 Territorial Legislature.

The Plan contained four major elements: Land Use, Polulation Density, Transportation, and Public Facilities.

This milestone document was prepared at a time of major governmental reorganization related to the admission of Hawaii as the 50th State. At the state level, then existing agencies were abolished and replaced with 18 new departments.

For example, the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission (established in 1947) was placed in the newly created Department of Transportation by the Reorganization Act of 1959 and, pursuant to the same Act, abolished on July 1, 1961. Airport facilities and activities were then placed under the direct management of the Director of Transportation.

Incidentally, Hawaii was the first State to establish a Department of Transportation.

October 1996: Pioneer Artesian Well
By: C. S. Papacostas

Between Evelyn and Clement Streets, on the mauka side of Wilder Avenue in Makiki, stands a modest monument: A simple bronze plaque affixed on a lava boulder declares:

IN ON APRIL 28, 1880 FOR

As I was reading the inscription, my mind's eye skipped backwards in time attempting to visualize the kind of growth that the King was contemplating. Today's reality is growth of a dramatically different (but not necessarily less valuable) kind.

​September 1996: National Conferences

By: C. S. Papacostas

The Hawaii Section of ASCE has a long history of involvement in major National Conferences.

For example, in the early 1980s the Section took the lead in organizing and hosting a specialty conference in the area of Engineering and Construction in Tropical and Residual Soils.

According to Frank M. Clemente, past president of the section, the proceedings of that conference:

represent a world-wide cross section of soils problems and it is hoped that they may serve as a primary reference for the profession and surely for those engineers who may be encountering tropical soils for the first time.

Another major National Conference in which the Hawaii Section played a significant role was entitled Hurricanes of 1992.

As many of you surely recall, 1992 was the year when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida and Louisiana, Hurricane Iniki devastated Kauai, and Typhoon Omar impacted Guam. Past president Constantinos S. Papacostas represented the Section on the Steering Committee for this conference.

The proceedings of both conferences contain valuable contributions from several Section members.

​August 1996: Territorial Soil Survey

By: C. S. Papacostas

A report based on a soil survey of the Territory of Hawaii was issued in September 1955 by the U. S. Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the University of Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station.

The actual soil mapping was completed in 1939 but World War II prevented the timely preparation of the report.

The expressed primary purpose of the report was to provide agricultural interpretations. Consequently, soils were mappped "in varying degrees of detail among areas of different agricultural potential," and (I presume) to depths relevant to it.

Reading the report as a non-specialist, I came to appreciate the difficulties that the scientists who did the work faced in connection with nomenclature. Following are three examples.

First, the scientists had to coin the term "latosol" in order "to avoid the confusion associated the the terms 'laterite' and 'lateritic'."

Second, they adopted some soil group names from the southern part of the mainland (for example, "Reddish Prairie") "as expedients in absence of recognized groups that would be more appropriate." They recognized, however, that "striking differences" existed between them.

Third, the scientists tentatively defined several lengthy descriptive phrases for soil suborders in an attempt to "reflect the dominating process of soil formation." One example is the suborder of "Dark-colored Soils of the Semiarid and Subhumid Grassland."

July 1996: Surveying Technology
By: C. S. Papacostas

This month's article is based on a write-up submitted by Kendall Hee of Engineers-Surveyors Hawaii, Inc. Kendall wrote that the biggest dividends from recent technology investments in Land Surveying have been in the area of measurement, the heart and soul of the profession.

Among the advancements made during the last two decades are Electronic Distance Measuring Instruments (EDMI), differential levels, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and computer-aided drafting.

The new technologies allow us to measure greater distances with less effort and more precision, provided that proper procedures are clearly understood and correctly followed. This is a critical caveat.

​If properly calibrated, needed corrections for steel tape or etched stadia hairs are generally small. Corrections are usually made to slope distances, whereas other variables are 'felt' so as to minimize their effect. Sag correction is usually the next major concern:

For a 300-foot tape weighting 0.005 lbs/ft, taping a distance of 300 ft would involve a sag correction of 0.07 ft. At 100 feet, the correction would be 0.0026 feet. By way of comparison, at 100 ft, a typical EDMI with a rated accuracy of 5mm +/- 3ppm would have a rated error of 0.016 ft, or about six and one half times the sag error noted above.

With EDMI and GPS, atmospheric conditions (mainly pressure and temperature) that can vary greatly during the day and with altitude changes attain special significance. Both of these types of measurement require timing of signals through the atmosphere and a change in atmospheric conditions will affect measured values.

In the case of GPS input corrections are not usually done. Instead, software are relied upon to respond to atmospheric and ionospheric conditions and to apply the appropriate corrections. Consequently, the surveyor and/or technician must understand the software, the instrumentation, as well as ionospheric conditions to effectively evaluate the data collected by this method.

Kendall concluded with the admonition that, even though technology is bringing about improvements, professional judgment and common sense remain indispensable. Margins of safety and tolerances cannot be forfeited on the basis of a false belief that technology can eliminate all error and uncertainty.

June 1996: Travel Demand Forecasting
By: C. S. Papacostas

The Federal Housing Act of 1961 provided funds for transportation planning, including comprehensive traffic surveys and other studies. This was followed by the Federal Highway Act of 1962 which mandated that after 1965 state eligibility for federal highway aid would be conditioned on the existence of long-range plans "based on a continuing, comprehensive transportation planning process carried out cooperatively by states and local communities."

Responding to this 3C planning process requirement, the Governor of Hawaii secured from the Honolulu City Council a resolution to participate and share equally with the State in the non-federal matching funds for an Oahu Transportation Study. The Governor justified his request as follows:

Since you're primarily responsible for maintaining the integrity of the local street system and land uses, it is most appropriate that the City and County exercise a voice in the planning of transportation facilities.

​The study was originally envisioned to take 30 months but it took almost four years (from 1963 and 1967) to complete. This massive undertaking was the first regional transportation planning study in Hawaii to employ travel demand and land use models, which had to be developed as part of the study.

May 1996: Hawaii's National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks
By: C. S. Papacostas

According to the Official Register of ASCE, the national Board of Direction authorized, in 1966, a process for the designation of ASCE National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks. In this continuing program, Section Committees on History and Heritage propose, with Section endorsement, a nationally or internationally significant civil engineering project which, after a thorough and critical review at the national level, may be recommended to the Board of Direction for designation. Selected projects receive a bronze plaque denoting this important achievement.

Among the projects that have been designated so far are the Boston Subway (1978), the Washington Monument (1981), the Golden Gate Bridge (1984), the Statue of Liberty (1984), the Panama Canal (1985) and Ecole Nationale Des Ponts et Causees (1988).

The Hawaii Section is proud that two of its nominated projects are included in this impressive list of landmarks. The two local projects are the Kamehameha V Post Office Building in downtown Honolulu for its early use of reinforced concrete and the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility that was built during World War II. Some of you may remember the ceremony held on June 24, 1995 at Camp Smith to officially recognize the Storage Facility.

April 1996: Hawaiian Volcanism
By: C. S. Papacostas

Much has been written on the subject of Hawaiian volcanism and geological structures over the years. An excellent report, carrying the title "Structures and Forms of Basaltic Rocks in Hawaii," was issued in 1953 as Geological Survey Bulletin 994. The authors were Chester K. Wentworth and Gordon A. Macdonald.

The report explains that explosive eruptions that produce volcanic ash are rare in Hawaii. An example is the Tantalus eruption on Oahu that produced a cinder cone and widespread ash showers. Generally, the common basalts of Hawaii erupt quietly forming gently sloping cones which have been described by Daly in 1933 as "exogenous lava domes." Most commonly, however, these structures are known as "shield volcanoes."

The two common types of lava flows in Hawaii are pahoehoe and aa. These two terms were first introduced to geology by Dutton in 1884 and now find worldwide use. In 1917, a geologist named Jagar proposed to replace these terms with "dermolith" and "aphrolith" but this proposal was not generally accepted.

According the Hawaiian Dictionary (by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert, © University of Hawai'i Press) pâhoehoe means "smooth lava" and also "satin." Depending on its surface appearance, pahoehoe can be described as shark-skin, filamented, corded, festooned, and even elephant-hide pahoehoe. With glottal stops before each "a" and a macron on the second, 'a'â is defined as blaze, glow, fire and stony. Wentworth and Macdonald state that "aa flows are characterized by exceedingly rough, jagged, clinkery surfaces." This description brings to my mind what Walter Lum told me a few years ago: Aa, he said, is the sound that comes out of your mouth when you try to walk barefoot on ... aa rock!!!

March 1996: Wilson Tunnel
By: C. S. Papacostas

This month's piece talks about the engineering history of the 2,776-ft Wilson Tunnel as documented by Ralph B. Peck in a 1981 article entitled Weathered-rock portion of the Wilson Tunnel, Honolulu.

According to the article, the tunnel was advanced from the windward (Kaneohe) side by full-face mining in largely unweathered basalt, with only an occasional need for support. In 1954 the tunnel approached the last 825 (or so) feet on the leeward (Kalihi) side and began to encounter materials ranging from highly weathered rock to residual soil. On June 24, a large overbreak occurred about 185 feet into this segment. On July 10, a major cave-in filled the tunnel with muck. Following a 5.38 in. rainfall on July 28, "water flowed in torrents." Remedial actions, including a temporary lining, proved to be insufficient and another quick collapse occurred on August 14.

Many methods of re-excavating the collapsed portion and completing the tunnel were considered: Full-face excavation was abandoned in favor of carefully supported small drifts that were advanced from both ends. Special attention was given to preventing water inflitration into the disturbed ground above the tunnel. Excavation resumed in February 1956 and appears to have been completed in mid-1957.

February 1996: Urban Transportation in Honolulu
By: C. S. Papacostas

A few weeks ago, I made a presentation to the University of Hawaii's "Colloquium Series on Cities and their Representations." My subject covered the history of urban transportation in Honolulu. One of the themes that emerged from my research on the topic was that, historically, Honolulu tended to adopt urban transportation systems after they had proliferated and had become well-established elsewhere. Some examples:

In 1868, the Pioneeer Omnibus Line began offering its service in town. Its fleet consisted of a single horse-drawn vehicle. Twenty years later, a rail-supported mule-drawn streetcar service was inaugurated by Hawaiian Tramways Ltd. On their way from town to Waikiki, the mules were fed at a stable located at Pawaa.

With the Organic Act of 1900 which established the Territory of Hawaii came several electric streetcar companies, including the Deskey Electric Railway and the Honolulu Rapid Transit & Land (HRT&L) Co. Following a colorful turn of events, HRT&L emerged as the sole provider of streetcar services. By 1940, the company began to replace its streetcars with rubber-tire electric trolleys and eventually, following the lead of other major cities, converted to diesel buses.

January 1996: Waiahole Ditch and Tunnel System
By: C. S. Papacostas

As a water commissioner, ASCE past president Richard Cox has to deal with the controversial issues associated with the cultural, environmental and legal issues surrounding the Waiahole ditch and tunnel system. The system transports water from the dike compartments of the Koolau and from several windward-side streams to the leeward side of the Oahu. Richard sent us a 1966 write-up commemorating the 50th anniversary of the system. In it we read the following:

Ancient Hawaiians had developed elaborate systems of "auwai" for taro irrigation, whereas the first sugar cane irrigation ditch (the Rice Ditch) was built on Kauai in the mid-1850s. In 1905, the first engineer was commissioned by the Oahu Sugar Company to investigate the feasibility of developing water in the Koolau Range on Oahu, but it took until 1913 to venture such monumental construction by a newly formed Waiahole Water Company. When completed a little more than three years later, the system included a large number of tunnels ranging in length from 280 feet to the 2.76-mile long main trans-Koolau tunnel.

​Excavation in those days was far from predictable. Access road and trail construction in the rugged terrain was especially difficult and the workers had to contend with voluminous flows of water as the first dike was pierced. Initially, supplies had to be moved by mule but eventually a 10-mile railroad and ocean pier made the task more efficient.

History & Heritage 1996

2017 Copyright ASCE Hawaii Section

  • a 1938 study by the notable city planner Lewis Mumford
  • a 1964 traffic study
  • a 1964 report by the Planning Department
  • the mroe recent "Waikiki 2000" and other master plans