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Thursday, November 18, 1999



City & County of Honolulu


Council receptive
to mayor’s tram plan

Four members who opposed
the ill-fated 1992 proposal are
on board for the latest plan

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Four of the five City Council members who derailed a mass transit rail project in 1992 are endorsing further study of Mayor Jeremy Harris' CityTram system.

The Council Policy Committee voted 6-0 vote on a resolution that endorses the concepts in the city's latest $1 billion-plus transit plan, but Council members say it has a long way to go.

The new proposal appears to be "the right plan at the right time," Councilman Steve Holmes, one of those who opposed the 1992 plan, said yesterday.

When the Fasi administration came up with its plan seven years ago, "the Council was kept in the dark and treated like mushrooms," Holmes said.

Councilman John DeSoto, who also opposed the last project, said he rejected it because transportation officials then did not address the traffic problems of those living in Kapolei and beyond.

"At least (Transportation Services Director Cheryl) Soon has been looking at Kapolei now," DeSoto said.

Council members John Henry Felix and Rene Mansho, who also voted against the 1992 funding plan, were the others who supported the new concept yesterday as did members Jon Yoshimura and Duke Bainum.

"This is a good, solid plan that involved all aspects of the community that needed to be involved," Yoshimura said.

Bainum said he liked the way the plan was born. "It's from the people, not government."

Members Andy Mirikitani, Mufi Hannemann and Donna Mercado Kim were not present for the vote.

The current plan consists of:

Bullet A $361 million high capacity, rubber-tired, electric tram line from Middle Street to the University area and Waikiki.
Bullet A $270 million Leeward bus rapid transit system that includes an afternoon Zipper Lane, new bus-only freeway ramps and a revamped "hub and spoke" bus system.
Bullet A $381.5 million Sand Island Scenic Park and Marina Road that will feature an underwater tunnel designed to bypass downtown and Nimitz Highway.

If the Council approves the resolution at its Dec. 1. meeting, the city would begin the environmental impact process and proceed with seeking Federal Transit Administration New Start dollars for the project.

Soon and representatives with consultant firm Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas said while the New Start dollars aren't essential for financing of the project, it would cut down on the amount of city bonds that would be necessary.

No new taxes, or even fares, are proposed with the construction of the CityTram and accompanying projects.

Because the project is split into 36 phases, its construction schedule can be adjusted to meet funding constraints, Soon said.

As for operating costs, Parsons Brinckerhoff consultant Norma Wong said the city could save as much as $6.5 million annually in what it currently spends on transit through buses once the tram is online.



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