Plans for a new pedestrian bridge over Ala Moana Boulevard are proceeding not far from where one of the city’s worst recent traffic crashes occurred.

On Tuesday, Sen. Brian Schatz’ office announced $20 million in federal funding for the project, which is still in the early design phase. The bridge would extend over Ala Moana at Victoria Ward Park and Kewalo Basin Harbor, according to officials with Howard Hughes Corp.

The private developer and prominent Kakaako landowner announced the project in May 2018 with a goal to make it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross Ala Moana’s six lanes between Ward Village and Ala Moana Beach Park.

It’s not clear when the bridge would be completed, although a company spokeswoman said they expect the planning to accelerate now that the $20 million has been secured.

Community members rally for pedestrian safety at Ala Moana Boulevard and Kamakee Street in January, after a drunk driver killed three pedestrians there. Marcel Honore/Civil Beat

“This elevated walkway over Ala Moana Blvd. is a game-changer,” Howard Hughes President Simon Treacy said in an emailed statement. “This overpass will provide the community with a safe and secure pedestrian experience connecting mauka to makai.”

Howard Hughes looks to partner with the state’s Department of Transportation and the city’s Department of Transportation Services to build the bridge. The company put the total cost at about $30 million, although it hasn’t been worked out how the $10 million balance will be covered.

Company officials say they aim for the Ala Moana walkway to resemble New York City’s popular High Line, a former rail spur that city officials converted into a pedestrian stroll and linear park.

In January, a drunk driver killed three pedestrians and seriously injured five others about a block away from the proposed site, when he veered his truck off Ala Moana and slammed into a traffic island at Kamakee.

Honolulu police officers investigate the site of the Jan. 28 crash that killed three pedestrians in Kakaako. Marcel Honore/Civil Beat

The high-profile incident helped spur state lawmakers this year to pass so-called “Vision Zero” legislation, which requires state transportation officials to more aggressively pursue policies that help prevent traffic fatalities.

Lawmakers also passed House Resolution 145, which requires those state officials to work with the city to make the intersection where the crash occurred safer. In his written testimony on the resolution, Howard Hughes Vice President Todd Apo noted that plans for the walkway via a public-private partnership were already underway, and he encouraged the House to have those public officials work with third parties, as well.

The $20 million in federal funds will come from a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary grant, formerly known as the TIGER grant, according to a statement from Schatz’s office.

“We had to compete for these dollars, so this is an especially big win for Oahu residents. These new federal funds will make it easier and safer for people to visit Ala Moana Beach Park, shop at local businesses, and access the future rail line,” Schatz said in the statement.

In 2018, 44 pedestrians, including 27 on Oahu, were killed statewide — a jarring spike from the 15 killed the previous year.

Meanwhile, the city’s DTS reports having removed or planning to remove 45 crosswalks deemed to be unsafe around Oahu, instead of enhancing them to make them safer.

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