2017 Copyright ASCE Hawaii Section

History & Heritage 1997

December 1997: Neighborhood Boards

By: C. S. Papacostas

In the United States, public involvement in governmental processes takes a variety of forms. Citizens participate in these processes either as individuals or as members of voluntary community associations.

The City and County of Honolulu, through its Charter Commission, has developed an additional avenue of public participation: the Neighborhood Board system.

Section 14-101 of the Revised Charter of Honolulu provides that neighborhoods and neighborhood boards to increase and assure effective citizen participation in the decisions of government shall be established in accordance with a neighborhood plan.

Resolution 83-357 established a Neighborhood Commission the purpose of which was to develop a plan designating neighborhood boundaries and to assist in the formation and operation of neighborhood boards.

The powers, duties and functions of the Commission are enumerated in Section 14-103 of the Revised Charter.

The commission consists of nine members, four appointed by the Mayor, four appointed by the presiding officer of the City Council (with the approval of the council), and one member appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council.

Procedures for the designation of neighborhood boundaries are included in the neighborhood plan. Currently, the island of Oahu is divided into 34 neighborhoods, each headed by an elected board.

As with any institutional structure, some neghborhood boards are more active than others. Nevertheless, presentations of proposed actions by public agencies and private entities to the boards of affected neighborhoods has become a de facto planning requirement.

November 1997: Road Building Technology Transfer

By: C. S. Papacostas

In October, the H-3 Highway was the recipient of this year's Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award.

During the presentation of this monumental undertaking, it was pointed out that (because of their extensive use and instrumentation on the project) drilled shafts have now become a common foundation system in Hawaii.

This example of technology transfer was actively supported by the Federal Highway Administration.

In the United States, the tradition of federally-funded research in road-building methods and materials goes back to before the turn of the 20th century. That was when a temporary Office of Road Inquiry (ORI) was established within the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

In 1899, the Office of Public Road Inquiry (OPRI) succeeded the ORI and, in 1905, was merged with the Division of Tests of the Bureau of Chemistry to form the Office of Public Roads. This was the precursor of the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) that in 1966 was absorbed into the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) within the then-formed U.S. Department of Transportation.

From the beginning, these organizations placed a special emphasis on supporting research and development activities, including special demonstration programs to help disseminate their findings to the States.

 1997: The Halawa Pumping Station

By: C. S. Papacostas

This month's article was prepared by two very active members of our Section: Jadine Urasaki of the State Department of Transportation and Robin Lim of Geolabs Hawaii.

The following material was taken from information provided by the Board of Water Supply and from a tour of the Halawa Pumping Station:

Nestled in Halawa Valley, at an elevation of 165 feet above sea level, is one of five main shafts operated by the Board of Water Supply. The other main shafts include Waialae, Kalihi, Makaha and Pearl City.

What makes these pumping stations unusual is their ability to "skim" water from the surface of the artesian basin, thus minimizing the threat of salt water intrusion. Approximately 15 million gallons of pure water is pumped every day from the Halawa shaft by three pumping units which have a capacity of 18 to 20 million gallons per day.

The Halawa shaft is nearly 300 feet in length. It is equipped with special lighting that illuminates two large pipelines transporting the water from the underground facility. The tunnel leading to the water source is carved out of solid rock.

Visitors can view the water pool from an observation area at the tunnel's end. The pool is a 'hole' at the top of a 919-foot long water development tunnel below, which extends beyond this point and back to the pumping room. The development tunnel once served as an emergency escape passage for the men who worked on the construction beginning in December 1941.

The Halawa shaft was put in operation on August 22, 1944. The cost of the shaft and pipeline was about $2,295,000. Construction alone was estimated to cost $76,000.

Along with the other five main facilities, the Halawa Pumping Station is electronically linked to the Beretania Station. From this control center, the Board of water supply can monitor each station's pumping rates.

The Halawa Pumping Station is open for public tours. Arrangements can be made by contacting the Board of Water Supply.

September 1997: Raised Lane Markers
By: C. S. Papacostas

This month's article is essentially based on information provided by long-standing ASCE member Tit Mun Chun. It describes how the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) adopted raised lane markers during the 1960s.

The use of non-retroflective "button-white dots" along with retroflective markers was motivated by a desire to reduce costs. According to Tit Mun's recollection, the initial cost of installing raised markers was considerably higher than that of conventional painting of lane lines.

However, a life cycle cost analysis conducted by HDOT showed the former to be less expensive than the latter ($57 versus $113 per lane mile).

​This took into consideration the fact that the non-retroflective dots would typically last more than five years and the retroflective markers about two years. By contrast, the painting of lane lines on most highways had to be done on the average once a year.

Tit Mun credits Eiichi Tanaka for leading a pioneering effort to determine the appropriate spacing of the raised markers. This was because no guidelines or standards were available at the time. HDOT engineers employed a trial-and-error method on the section of H-1 between Palama Overpass and Likelike to accomplish this task.

Tit Mun credits the new marking system for increased visibility, improved safety due to the rumble effect, reduced rear-end collissions, and less-frequent closures for maintenance activities. Nevertheless, some "night owls" did complain that the retroflective markers were "hurting their tired eyes!"

As I often remind my students, for every action, there is an equal and opposite ... criticism!!!

August 1997: The 1965 Soil Survey of Hawaii
By: C. S. Papacostas

One year ago, this column discussed the 1939 soil survey of the Territory of Hawaii. This month's subject is a follow-up survey completed in 1965 and documented in a 1972 publication by the U. S. Soil Conservation Service.

Soils were classified and named according to nationwide conventions into soil series and soil phases. Each series was named for a geographic feature near the location where the corresponding soil was originally identified.

The Lahaina series and the Pearl Harbor series are two of more than 100 examples. Each soil series was subdivided into phases depending on differences in texture, slope, degree of erosion, and other properties.

The data are presented in various maps derived from aerial photographs accompanied by extensive discussions and interpretations.

Where mapping units consist of highly intermingled soil categories, they are shown as soil complexes and named so as to reflect the main components (e.g., Kemoo-Badland complex).

In some cases, map units where soil types are too closely interspersed to be individually delineated are described as soil associations (e.g., the Halemano-Wahiawa association).

Areas where the material was not found amenable to classification by soil series are described as land types. Examples of these are Very Stony Land (rVS) and Riverwash (rRH). The small r in these two names indicates that these soils were identified through reconnaissance rather than high- or low-intesity surveys.

Under a heading Use and Management of Soils, a section of the document explains their suitability for various uses and discusses soil properties that are relevant to engineering applications.

Finally, the soil series found in Hawaii are also classified according to a new scheme adopted by the National Cooperative Soil Survey in terms of family, subgroup and great group, and order.

This system replaced the older (1938) scheme. For example, the Lahaina series belongs to the clayey, kaolinitic, isohyperthermic family, subgroup Typic Torrox, and order oxisols.

According to the older (1938) scheme, the same series was said to belong to the great soil group designated as low-humic latosols.

July 1997: The Honomu Hawaii Earthquake
By: C. S. Papacostas

During a general clean-up of my office, I uncovered a report carrying the simple title The Honomu, Hawaii Earthquake, over the seal of the National Research Council.

The report was prepared by N. Norby Nielsen and Augustine Furumoto of the University of Hawaii, Walter Lum of Walter Lum and Associates and B. J. Morril of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The subject of the 1977 report was a magnitude-6.2 earthquake that occurred on the morning of April 26, 1973 at 10:27, Hawaii Standard Time. This earthquake was the first for which strong motion accelograms were obtained in Hawaii.

The report indicates that there was disagreement between NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as to the location of the epicenter: The former placed it at sea, whereas the latter determined it to be on land. It appears that this earthquake was not associated with any center of volcanism but that it was due to a tectonic process apart from volcanism.

In an interesting section, the report describes the difference in the soil characteristics and behavior of the two sides of the Wailuku River:

Deep deposits of volcanic ash from the last stages of volcanic activity of the older Mauna Kea are found to the north of the river. The ground south of the river is lava rock from the younger and still active Mauna Kea. The records showed that the velocity response of the volcanic ash was five to ten times as large as the response measured on the lava rock.

Another point made was that there were no signs of liquefaction, even though volcanic ash tends to liquefy under traffic of heavy construction equipment

June 1997: The Transportation Research Board

By: C. S. Papacostas

The year 1995 marked the 75th anniversary of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), one of the earliest units within the National Research Council.

According to a commemorative publication, 
the National Research Council came into being in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson asked the National Academy of Sciences to provide the government with broader scientific research services to assist the nation's military preparedness.

The TRB was created in 1920 in response to needs identified by the states and federal highway agencies. Originally called the National Advisory Board on Highway Research, it was soon renamed the Highway Research Board. It was officially given its current designation in 1974 in recognition of its expanded scope beyond highway research.

The initial charge of the Board was to respond to the nation's needs for highway technology reseach and development at a time when an explosion in the use of motor vehicles was taking place. In 1931, the newsletter "Highway Research Abstracts" was initiated to disseminate research findings to a broader audience.

Other milestones include the administration of major programs in the 1950s (including the American Association of State Highway Officials Road Test), the publication of the first "Highway Capacity Manual" in 1955, and the challenges that resulted from the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. This Act launched the construction of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

May 1997: The Young Engineer
By: C. S. Papacostas

The following true story was told to me by a well-known civil engineer, now retired, who shall remain anonymous.

As a young graduate, our esteemed colleague was hired by a public agency in Honolulu. He applied himself diligently and conscientiously to the pleasure of his immediate supervisors who often told him that the Director was also pleased with his meticulous work.

Months went by before the young engineer got the chance to meet the Director. He looked forward to the occasion because of the great respect that his fellow office workers held for the great man.

Then one day, the young man was asked to deliver a set of plans to the Director. A bit nervous, he found his way to the right place and was led to the Director's office. Sitting behind a massive desk was a haole gentleman who looked up and asked:

"Yes, young man. What can I do for you?"

"I am here to see Mr. Ho Tei Lin," our friend replied.

The response left him dumbfounded: "I am Mr. Houghtailing. What can I do for you?"

April 1997: Aviation in Hawaii
By: C. S. Papacostas

According to Civil Engineering: Its Contributions to Progress in Hawaiii, published by the Hawaii Section of ASCE in 1987 to commemorate its 50th year, aviation began in Hawaii in 1889 with the flight of a hot air balloon at Kapiolani Park.

Bud Mars was the first pilot to fly a powered aircraft in Hawaii. He took off from the Moanalua polo field on the last day of 1910. I was not able to ascertain anything else about this historic flight.

In 1925, Commander John Rodgers attempted the first flight from the Mainland in a Navy seaplane but didn't quite make it all the way. After running out of fuel, the Commander and his crew had to sail the aircraft for nine days to reach Nawiliwili.

Also in 1925, the Territorial Legislature appropriated $45,000 for the construction of the John Rodgers Airport, now known as the Honolulu International Airport. With the establishment of the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission in 1927 airfield construction was accelerated.

The first scheduled service between the islands was inaugurated in 1929 by Inter-Island Airways, the predecessor of Hawaiian Airlines.

The first commercial transpacific service was offered by Pan American Airways in 1935. The clipper seaplanes of this "China Clipper" service made landings in Pearl Harbor with the Navy's permission.

March 1997: Hawaii's Interstate Highways
By: C. S. Papacostas

At least twice each year someone asks me why Hawaii, being non-contiguous with the U.S. Mainland, can have roadways designated as part of the Interstate Highway System.

Sometimes the questioner points out that Hawaii was not even a State in 1956, when President Eisenhower signed the enabling legislation into law.

Part of the answer lies in the full name of the system: The National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Even as a Territory, Hawaii had enjoyed significant federal funding for certain "defense" and "emergency" roadways.

Following the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, the Territory forwarded a proposal for a 200-mile system. This was pared down to about 100 miles after discussions with military commands in Hawaii, endorsed by the Department of Defense and submitted to the U.S. Congress. A 50-mile system lying entirely on Oahu was approved in 1960.

Besides making the "national defense" argument, Elizabeth Farrington (I believe) also argued that the Oahu system would facilitate "interstate commerce" involving a change of mode at either the harbor or the airport.

Of the three highways (H-1, H-2 and H-3) that make up the system, H-3 had the most tumultuous history. Originally planned to run through Moanalua Valley, it experienced many delays, administrative setbacks, and court challenges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

February 1997: The HandiVan Service
By: C. S. Papacostas

A few days ago, I looked at a paper entitled Honolulu's HandiVan:Use and Implications which I wrote for a 1980 issue of Traffic Quarterly.

The paper was based on a project I conducted in cooperation with the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services and funded by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, now known as the Federal Transit Administration.

​The mobility needs of certain disadvantaged groups were seriously addressed during the 1970s. By 1976, federal transportation agencies promulgated joint regulations which made federal funding for urban projects contingent upon satisfactory efforts to provide services for elderly and handicapped persons.

In 1977, the Honolulu City Council authorized a special transit service which will be operated as a supplement to regular city mass transit service who are prevented from using standard mass transit buses due to a mobility handicap.

An appropriation for a 6-month pilot program was included and this was the start of the HandiVan. The initial fleet consisted of six vehicles, five of which were equipped with lifts. By early 1978, the system was accommodating about 500 trips per day.

Of course, since that time, the system has been greatly expanded.

January 1997: History of Sewers: Oahu
By: C. S. Papacostas

Kendall Hee of Engineers-Surveyors Hawaii, Inc., forwarded an excerpt of a Report entitled History of Sewers:City and County of Honolulu. The author is identified only as JL.

From an 1857 story in the Commercial Pacific Advertiser it appears that the first sewer facility to be constructed on Oahu was a storm drain located at Queen Street at the foot of Kaahumanu Street opposite Pier 11.

Despite three outbreaks of smallpox, a typhus epidemic, and two cholera epidemics between 1853 and 1895, no other serious actions were taken to improve conditions.

Finally, in 1897, Rudolph Hering of New York was hired to prepare specifications for a sewerage system, pumping station, and ocean outfall.

These were completed by the San Francisco firm of Vincent and Belzer in 1901, two years after Honolulu was hit by an epidemic of bubonic plague.

The first sewer system connections (to the Department of Health building on Punchbowl and Queen Streets, and to the U.S. post Officebuilding on Bethel and Merchant) were completed in 1900. This was followed by the slow conversion of other properties from cesspools to sewers.

In 1907, the Territorial Legislature created the Counties and two years later the County of Oahu was renamed the City and County of Honolulu, but extension of the sewerage system could not keep up with demand over the next 30 or so years.

The question of equity arose during the 1920s: Most construction was being financed by bond issues and tax receipts but this practice was deemed to be unfair to residents of rural areas who were compelled to pay for services they would not receive in the foreseeable future.

The issue was addressed in 1928 with the creation of improvement districts in urban Honolulu and for large tract developments.

St. Louis Heights was the first tract to be developed under a 100% improvement basis and to be wholly financed by developers E. J. Lord et al.