Updated: Mar 29
This is an exclusive HIRSC Team editorial post as we take a behind-the-scenes look and meet the creator of the now widely used Island of Hawaii Mile Markers Map.
Published By: HIRSC Team - Hawaii Island (Holualoa) Section
The question always arose on social media and other websites, where can a find a map that specifically has the mile markers for Hawaii Island and the answer was to resort to Google Map and use Street View to find it and get lucky on your first try.
That's when HIRSC Administrator and Founder Benjamin Agdeppa undertook the task of creating a map that would help answer that question brought up.
"When I constantly saw that same question continuously show up on Social Media and message boards, I began what at first I thought would be an easy project later turned out to be one of the daunting and longest projects I would undertake in many years. Ben says "It all began by sending out an inquiry to State of Hawai'i Department of Transportation for information on mile markers and soon as you know it, I was sent via email the official GIS file that contained all the mile markers locations in the state. At first, I thought, okay this will be simple and easy to get done in less than one day on Google Maps."
And so that began the process of what was to become the most stressful but also a time-consuming process of creating each icon for each individual mile marker on the island. "What I personally did to speed up that process was find every 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. mile marker and work all the way down the line to highest of 122, which by the way is located on Queen Kaahumanu Hwy fronting the old Borders books location (or now Planet Fitness) in Kailua-Kona. When I did it that way, I was able to get half of the island done in one evening" Ben says.
While the regular mile markers were easy to find, now became the other challenge of finding a 1/2 mile marker icon. Ben says "One night I spent at least 3-4 hours looking for just 1/2 mile marker icons and no results came up. I tried the process of taking a photo of the 1/2 mile markers on the side of the road and turning it into a PNG, that did not work at all. After coming out empty on each method, I research the guidelines and specifications of a mile marker sign used out on our roadways. Once I got the specs and also color codes used on the sign, then became the next tedious task of individually creating over 135 different special mile markers on Photoshop and later uploaded all of them on the map, that process took roughly another day to complete."
After that, all was said and done, the next layer or task came of identifying the location of every traffic signal and also known local landmark around the entire island. Ben said, "As a part of my full-time job, I have to drive the entire island of Hawaii in a week and drive almost every major route on the island, so it was very easy to add items I've personally seen to the map and make adjustments down the road." Another thing that helped was making a note in a journal of the different landmarks and approximately mile marker location.
"I carry the journal with me in my truck at all times and as soon I get to a stop, immediately note down the changes or additions needed to make, and once I get back to my computer, add it onto the map, probably within that same day. There are also notes in my own phone also on changes needed to make, the list is so long that I printed out one day, it came out to over 12 pages, all notes from as early as the very beginning in the project."
Since the release of the mile marker map for Hawaii Island back in March 2018, it has become a major assessment within the Hawaii Island and also to the HIRSC Team when it comes to giving not only directions or also noting down where an incident had occurred in our information updates. Based on statistics pulled up by Ben, the map has been viewed over 73,000 times since its first release in 2018, and users from all over the world have used it.
This map has been also used a lot by first responders and businesses throughout Hawaii Island. "Just the other day, I walked into a business and saw a screenshot photo of my map with a QR Code to get it to your phone. It really surprised me that how much it became an asset to many."
"I personally didn't expect something like this to take off like wildfire in a matter of months or even the course of 3 years and all I can say to everyone who sends me emails/messages on a weekly basis is just thank you, thank you," Ben says
Because of the popularity of this map, Ben has received multiple requests to create a similar map for the Islands of Maui County that goes as far back as late 2019. Well after much anticipation and debate, Ben decided to pull that trigger and start the race to get a similar map made for Maui County this year. This project had a very bold estimated completion timeline of one week turnaround time.
And well after 5 days of hard work and effort in late March, Ben completed the project on March 26th, 2021. Ben says "This by far was one of the most difficult projects I have worked on since completing the Island of Hawaii Mile Marker Map and took many sleepless nights to get this finally completed in under one week time. I believe this is the first map of its kind for the Islands of Maui County to made and I've seen many emails and request come into my email requesting for me to make one for Maui since 2018 when I released the Island of Hawaii map. I've personally could not find one such map online or anywhere."
One of the challenges that Ben encountered with this project is outdated information from the State GIS points that was sent to him earlier this year. "The data was last updated in 2017 and a lot of changes such as new roads and also routes were added on Maui in the past few years and new markers were added and existing ones were deleted since the realignment was completed. So I had to use Google Streetview to verify the information and also relay to our HIRSC - Maui Team Members to assist me with physically confirming details as well," Ben says.
The funniest thing that many will notice is how abrupt some route mile markers change from one number and make a giant leap to a higher one in less than a mile from each other. Another example, some routes will only have random one or two-mile markers on them. Ben says "This was by far the most confusing thing I had with this map and I thought I was seeing things until my team confirmed physically and just had a good laugh about it in the end."
"I know the first version isn't in any way 100% perfect and asks for the assistance of the Maui County residents to send me an email and I'll do my best to get that corrected in the next update (Updates to this map will be made on a monthly basis)" Ben says
Ben says "there are more additions coming to the map within the next few months (such as rivers/gulches, landmarks, etc; similar to Hawaii Island map) and asking for the help of Maui County Residents to send in their request to me and will do my best to make it work similar to Hawaii Island's map. I want the Maui County Residents to tell me what works for them to make unique. My hope is with this map makes it easier for residents and businesses to give directions to people and also help give a visual to everyone on where an accident or brush fire is at, to help with route planning or just plain curiosity kicks in."
"I do want to give a lot of credit also to my HIRSC - Maui Team for helping me verifying the information as well, I couldn't get this map done in a timely matter without them since being on the Island of Hawaii and unable to travel for recreational purposes at this time," Ben says.
We asked Ben what is the next map he had planned on doing next, he had a good laugh when asked and just said it's a wait-and-see situation. If the requests/need arise, then he wouldn't mind completing the entire state, however, wouldn't hint when that would begin.
Although Ben continues to credit everyone else for the maps, the entire community and the HIRSC Team would like to say officially to Ben, on behalf of not only the HIRSC Team and Hawaii Island and Islands of Maui County Communities, we would like to thank you for your continued efforts behind the scenes for providing such a valuable asset to the community over the past years, this credit is not only for the maps but also for continuing to providing the communities with HIRSC media pages over the past 4 years and counting.
We do also want to thank Ben for his continued hard work and efforts behind the scenes for maintaining everything and spending countless hours of his own life making virtually anything possible.
So Mahalo Plenty, Ben.