[ OUR OPINION ]
Idea to double-deck H-1
needs more careful thought
Creating solutions to traffic problems on Oahu should be steered by a number of factors -- cost, suitability, practicality and long-term effectiveness, among them. Linda Lingle's surprising and vague proposal to build a second deck above a portion of the H-1 freeway appears to engage none of these elements.
The governor-elect has proposed that a second deck be built on the freeway from Kapolei to downtown.
Lingle acknowledges that she has no idea of the cost of building a two- or three-lane addition to the freeway that would run between Kapolei and downtown. Some years ago, when the state considered adding a second deck to the H-1 to extend from Middle Street to Aloha Stadium, the price tag was estimated at $300 million to $400 million. Lingle should expect that the outlay for a Kapolei-downtown stretch, which is roughly three times that length, could be as much as a billion dollars, if not more.
The federal government typically funds as much as 80 percent of highway projects. As a Republican, Lingle may anticipate favorable attention from the Bush administration, but getting such a huge infusion of funds quickly isn't likely. Even if the money does come the state's way, it probably would be at the expense of every other state transportation project, including rapid transit. Tolls, which she also proposed to offset some of the expense, wouldn't raise nearly enough money.
Lingle suggests that the highway deck operate as contra-flow lanes, with all traffic headed east in the morning and west in the afternoon, and have no offramps or onramps in between. Unlike the H-3, which has few destination points between its Kaneohe-to-Halawa route, the H-1 passes through areas dense with residential and commercial districts. The deck's limitations would diminish its practicality and usefulness.
The governor-elect says current traffic congestion "dooms" Kapolei as a second city. However, the theory behind Kapolei's development was not as a bedroom community, but as a place where people both would live and work, thus reducing the need for commutes to town. While businesses and commercial enterprises are still in early stages there, Kapolei should be allowed to mature before predictions of failure.
Although they may be appropriate for mainland locales, multi-decked freeways would visually blemish a state dependent on the natural environment for its tourist economy. Moreover, building more freeways contradicts the sensible and less environment-threatening approach the city has taken for mass transit on a land-scarce island.
Traffic problems cannot be solved by viewing them as isolated concerns. Reducing congestion or avoiding adding more cars to jammed highways takes careful planning of housing and commercial development. Adding two or three lanes of freeway won't help if unrestrained housing projects are built along the way.
As a candidate, Lingle was meticulous in stating the proposals on her agenda. As Hawaii's top executive, she will have to present her proposals clearly and with supporting details. There is a big difference between campaigning and governance.
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