Friday, August 13, 2004

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, right, pointed yesterday as he discussed needed improvements to Honolulu Harbor to accommodate the interisland Superferry with Gov. Linda Lingle and state Transportation Director Rodney Haraga.

Mineta lauds
ferry project

The U.S. transportation secretary
said he has seen few undertakings
that are as ambitious

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta praised plans for an interisland ferry system yesterday, saying it will create high-quality jobs for Hawaii.

"I see a lot of transportation projects but few as ambitious or forward-looking as this," he said.

Mineta, who was in town to address the Japanese American Citizens' League's national convention, took a 30-minute tour of Honolulu Harbor with Gov. Linda Lingle and state Transportation Director Rodney Haraga.

Lingle and Haraga "appreciate the importance of our maritime industry and the importance it has in moving our economy," Mineta said.

Mineta spoke in front of the state's 3-year-old ferry terminal building, which he noted was built with federal transportation funds.

Hawaii Superferry plans to begin interisland ferry service in 2006. The company has filed a rate plan with the state Public Utilities Commission.

The company hopes to have two high-speed ferries serving the islands by 2008. Each of the 340-foot catamarans currently being built in Mobile, Ala., at a cost of $75 million each will each be able to carry 866 people and 282 cars.

A ferry system would bring Hawaii's people together, Lingle said.

"We're excited because the potential is so great," she said. "We want to move forward."

Lingle said her administration will have to talk with the Legislature about the level of investment the state is comfortable with.

Haraga said the ferry system, dubbed the H-4, would provide an alternative mode of transportation, but said there is a lot of work to do on the infrastructure.

Tim Dick, chairman of Hawaii Superferry, said that what was just a vision three years ago is rapidly becoming reality.

A waterway system is as important to Hawaii as roads are to mainland states, he said.

The $200 million cost of the project is one of the largest non-land investments in Hawaii, he said.

Mineta also announced that Hawaii has received a $7.46 million federal grant for development of ferry landing projects on Maui, Lanai and Molokai.



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