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Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Advocates seek study
Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D, Waipahu-Ewa) introduced the bill, saying traffic was the top priority for people in her district.
"I know the whole island has had that problem, but I think more so with us because we only have one access to town," she said.
Cabanilla said she envisions a tunnel built in partnership with private developers that would have six lanes, including two that could someday be converted for use by a light-rail system.
The cost of the tunnel is estimated at $170 million.
John Emmerson, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said a tunnel with three lanes going one way and a $2 toll would generate about $26 million a year -- more than enough to offset the building costs after seven years.
The state Department of Transportation submitted testimony saying it supports the intent of the project but is concerned that a tunnel would be too costly.
Officials noted that the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization is currently updating a 25-year transportation plan to set priorities for transit improvements on the island.
The feasibility study was supported by Democrats and Republicans -- 30 House members signed the bill as co-sponsors.
Gov. Linda Lingle said she was pleased that lawmakers were considering all options and making Oahu traffic a top priority.
"I don't think we should rule out anything at this point," Lingle said. "I don't think it can be any one thing; it's going to have to be a combination of things. So I'm glad there seems to be agreement that this is major issue facing the entire state."
In other legislative action yesterday, Senate lawmakers tabled a bill that would have provided consumers with one day of tax-free shopping each year.
Opponents of the measure included the state Department of Taxation, which said the "tax holiday" would cost the state about $7.7 million in revenue annually.
The Senate Business and Economic Development Committee voted unanimously to hold the bill in committee. A similar bill in the House has not been scheduled for a hearing.