Draft plan should lead to rail transit completion
A government organization has released draft plans for a rail transit system and other traffic improvements on Oahu.
RAIL TRANSIT is clearly the axis of the city's plan for Oahu's future transportation system, but an array of peripheral projects are a major part of the equation. In stark terms, a draft plan unveiled last week shows how rail stretching from Manoa and downtown to Kapolei is essential in avoiding intolerable congestion during the next quarter-century.
The Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, comprised of City Council members, state legislators and transportation experts, has posted the plan on the Internet at www.oahumpo.org. While other strategies are technically possible, rail is the obvious choice, supported by Mayor Hannemann and the Council.
The group projected that Oahu will be home to an additional 240,000 people by 2030, and most will live on the Leeward side. The population of Honolulu's urban center will grow by 70,000, while Kapolei and the surrounding Ewa area will soar from the 2000 census of 69,000 to 185,000. Windward Oahu is forecast to decline slightly.
In addition to the rail line, the plan calls for new freeway interchanges, more lanes for buses and car-poolers by widening the H-1 and building two elevated lanes above Nimitz Highway, expansion of the bus system and the launching of a commuter ferry between Ewa and downtown. The total bill is estimated at nearly $13.5 billion, including $7.2 billion for construction, operation and maintenance of the rail system.
Only 16 percent of the cost will be paid over 15 years by revenues from the city's 0.5 percent surcharge on the state's 4 percent general excise tax, scheduled to begin next year, while 46 percent will come from the city's general revenues, mainly property taxes. State and federal contributions will be 20 percent and 21 percent respectively, according to the draft plan.
The cost will be enormous, but the consequences of backing away would be devastating. Without the rail system or increased traffic lanes, more than two-thirds of Oahu residents -- from the North Shore and from Waipio up the Leeward Coast -- would face commuting times of at least 80 minutes, according to the organization.
Planners have yet to determine the rail's alignment or where to position rail transit stations, to be fed by buses from nearby neighborhoods. When completed, commuters using public transportation are expected to grow in number to 367,000 from today's 223,000 by the improvements' completion in 2030.
The draft plan projects that the number of people in cars will increase by 30 percent by 2030, but expansion of highways and the addition of rail transit are expected to reduce traffic congestion. A rail system has been proposed for decades and should not be shelved again.