Bridge accident clogs roads for hours

An early afternoon accident in which a military vehicle damaged a bridge on the H-1 freeway led to hours of near gridlock in urban Honolulu yesterday. State transportation officials and residents alike called it the island’s worst traffic jam ever. The trouble began when an Army excavator being towed from Pearl Harbor to Schofield Barracks struck a pedestrian bridge over the H-1 in Aiea, between the Aiea Heights Drive and Kaamilo St. overpasses. The impact shattered the concrete structure and snapped steel support cables within, prompting state officials to deem it unsafe and to close down all westbound lanes of the freeway. Cars packed onto surface streets, the state extending green lights on Kamehameha Highway in an attempt to relieve the pressure. Commuters spent up to six hours in traffic, some circling around the island to avoid the mess, while others abandoned their cars to walk home. Bus riders reported emergency bathroom breaks that involved roadside shrubbery, and hotels welcomed dozens of downtown workers who decided against trying to get home at all. Nimitz Highway was still backed up at 2 a.m. Demolition crews worked overnight to remove the bridge span before this morning’s rush hour.

'LOST' actor arrested in Waikiki

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Mr. Eko on ABC’s filmed-in-Hawaii primetime hit series “Lost,” was arrested early Saturday morning for driving without a license and disobeying a police officer. The 39-year-old London-born actor was stopped for a traffic violation at 2:25 a.m. near Kanekapolei St. and Kuhio Ave. He spent about six hours in jail before posting $1,000 bail. He has been scheduled for a Sept. 26 District Court appearance. Akinnuoye-Agbaje is the third “Lost” cast member to be arrested for traffic violations in Hawaii, but several of his colleagues have at least received citations, as recounted by the Star-Bulletin. Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros pled guilty following drunk driving arrests in November 2004, and their characters were subsequently killed off in “Lost.” The show’s creators maintain, however, that their DUI arrests had nothing to do with their characters’ fates.

Oahu home sales, prices fall

Honolulu realtors sold about 100 fewer homes and 250 fewer condos in August 2006 compared to the same month a year ago, but the median price in both categories remained relatively stable, according to statistics released today by the Honolulu Board of Realtors. In sales volume, August home sales were down 22 percent from a year ago and condo sales were down 30 percent. Meanwhile, the median home price fell slightly to $635,000 in August, down 3.8 percent from $660,000 in July, and the median condo price fell to $305,000 from $329,000, representing a 7.3 percent month-to-month drop. Board economist Harvey Shapiro said the figures show Hawaii’s real estate market remains in transition, and that demand will eventually slow to a more normal pace. “We had an exceptionally long period of expansion — more than eight years starting from the second quarter of 1997 through the third quarter of last year,” Shapiro noted. “Historically, previous ‘up’ phases in Oahu real estate cycles lasted no longer than five years before normal conditions were restored.” So far this year, the total number of sales is down 10.7 percent for single-family homes and 15.6 percent for condominiums compared to 2005. But the median prices are up 10.4 percent and 22 percent, respectively, over the same period. Total 2006 dollar sales through August was $3.8 billion, a decrease of 2.4 percent (or $94 million) compared to the first eight months in 2005. The statistics do not include new home sales.

Big Island on course for record coffee season

Hawaii coffee revenues are estimated to hit a record-high $37.3 million this season, thanks largely to Big Island growers and unusually high rainfall. This according to the latest numbers out of the Hawaii Field Office for the National Agricultural Statistics Service. If realized, the projections would represent an increase of 88 percent over 2004-’05, and surpass the all-time record of $28.2 million set in 1997-’98. According to the latest Hawaii coffee report, isle coffee production jumped 46 percent over last season, the resulting 8.2 million pounds of coffee selling for record-high farm prices of $4.55 per pound. Most of the increase and most of the total harvest came from Hawaii County, where several months of above-normal rainfall totals and increases in acreage devoted to coffee yielded 5.8 million pounds — an 81 percent increase on the Big Island alone. Honolulu, Maui, and Kauai counties contributed 2.4 million pounds. Buyers still place a premium on Big Island and Kona coffees: while growers on other islands received an average of $2.61 per pound, the price hit $4.55 in Hawaii County, with “green certified Kona coffee” going for $10.25 per pound. This season’s harvest is actually expected to be 5 percent smaller than the last. Worldwide, coffee production is up nearly 10 percent, particularly in Brazil, Vietnam, and Peru.

Akaka, Case debate transcript

The first — and probably only — live, televised debate between Rep. Ed Case and Sen. Daniel Akaka took place tonight. Organized by AARP Hawaii, moderated by UH communications chair Gerald Kato, and broadcast on PBS Hawaii, it was not available online nor via other networks. It will nevertheless be closely watched and heavily reported, as this primary race is remarkable on both the local and national level. HawaiiNews.com has transcribed the debate to benefit those who were unable to watch it live.

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