Rail stops seen as key to community growth
City maps reveal prospective routes and stops on an Oahu rail line
Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairman Micah Kane envisions a day when future homesteaders on the Ewa plains can live, play, work and go to school within the same community.
"This is going to be the piko (center) of the second city," Kane said, pointing to a map of East Kapolei and Ewa.
Councilman Romy Cachola foresees Kalihi without a jail and a brighter economy.
"That's 18 acres of land, and that's a very valuable piece of land," Cachola said of the Oahu Community Correctional Center site.
And the catalyst for all that, they and others say, could be locating a rail transit route and transit stations in those communities.
The city is slated to release its suggestions today on where to locate transit stops along four possible rail alignments, all of which begin in Kapolei. The report is being compiled as part of the analysis of mass transit alternatives the city must complete to obtain federal funding. Once the study is done, the City Council must decide on a mass transit system.
Kane, Cachola and others said the location of the rail routes and transit stops are important components to the direction of growth, traffic and lifestyle.
"It's huge," Kane said. "It has significant social impacts with the things we're trying to accomplish in the region. It's not just about transportation."
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and other area developers prefer the rail transit route that would run along Saratoga Avenue in Kalaeloa and connect with the proposed North-South Road, which is now under construction.
That route would run through several DHHL projects, including two future housing developments and a 67-acre commercial zone. The department is seeking bids to develop the property.
And the route also would run along the border of the future University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus.
The transit report apparently puts three rail stations along the North-South Road rail line. One of the stations could be located adjacent to DHHL's commercial property, which is right across the road from the city's Varona Village. Now, DHHL is negotiating with the city to gain a large tract of land in Varona.
"(Varona) is attractive because ... it brings down the per-home cost of construction to get the site ready for house construction," Kane said.
In exchange, DHHL might give up its 56-acre Ewa Drum site in Waiawa near Leeward Community College and the crossroads of Farrington and Kamehameha highways. It is a key piece for the transit plan, and it was the starting point in the failed 1992 transit project. DHHL is getting the Drum Site property through a land transfer with the U.S. Navy.
Kane said the transit scenario in Ewa could have several advantages for both Hawaiian homes and the city.
"We see the rail as a complementary asset that our people will benefit from tremendously," said Kane, adding that he sees future homesteaders catching the train to classes to the West Oahu campus or even to Leeward Community College.
Development of the transit centers -- seen as magnets for developments -- on or near DHHL properties could also mean that residents could have jobs in the areas and be a source of generating revenues for the department.
"Not only does it mean that more revenues can be generated by the department so we can get more Hawaiians on the land, but more importantly, it provides jobs, sustainable jobs very close to our communities, and gets people out of their cars to bike to work, to walk to work," Kane said. "It's a quality-of-life issue so that people can sit down for dinner and not sit in their car for an hour and a half getting home."
Kane said that having rail transit centers with park-and-ride lots also could attract more riders.
"Because there is a rail stop there, it brings people there," said City Councilman Todd Apo, transportation chairman and the councilman for West Oahu.
Apo said the city should provide rail service to existing homeowners and should be thinking about the area's future homeowners, too.
While spurring new development, older sections of Honolulu also could benefit from transit stops in their neighborhood.
Cachola and other councilmembers say the project could spur the redevelopment of places like Kalihi if the rail line runs through there.
And Cachola said the jail could be moved and the land redeveloped into a possible transit center.
"The state can sell that land or sell the development rights in that area and recoup the money and use it to put the prison some place else," Cachola said. "If they sell that to developers or even the rights, you make money out of it and use that as a transit center or stop and develop around it."