December 8, 2010 – MAUNA KEA, Hawaii
By Stephanie Salazar
Thousands of drivers use the Mauna Kea summit access road each year, and the need for guardrails along two culverts went before the Mauna Kea Management Board when they met in Hilo this week.
You may have wondered why some trucks on Mauna Kea have the hoods painted with flat black paint – that’ s to lessen the glare of the sun as scientists head up to the summit at sunset, then down to the mid level facility at sunrise.
But even the best drivers can often get blinded by the sun’s glare. So, this week the Mauna Kea Management Board approved installing two guardrails along parts of the summit road, near two tricky switchbacks . This is near the top, on an unpaved section.
The roadway is officially named the John A. Burns Way – but it is known as the summit access road. During their meeting on Monday, board members heard of two recent vehicle mishaps along that stretch of road: in one case a local man driving a pickup truck with people riding in the bed, almost ran off the road and flipped. Fortunately there were no injuries, except damage to the truck.
The two 50-foot guardrails should be in place by January, hopefully before any snow fall draws more tourists to the summit.
On Monday, the board also approval a request from Gemini Telescope to install a one-thousand gallon diesel storage tank and underground earthquake sensors. The observatory was off line for about one week after the 2006 Kiholo earthquake off the Kona coast damaged some equipment, and Gemini only had a few hours worth of diesel in their small tank.