Double toll road is added to the transit mix
The high-occupancy route would follow rush hour patterns
Rail transit opponents finally got to see something they like among Honolulu's mass transit alternatives, and it's HOT.
That's HOT for two high-occupancy toll lanes instead of one flowing alongside but separate from rush hour traffic.
But no matter what these managed lanes are called, one thing is certain: Some drivers would have to pay a toll to use them.
"(HOT lanes) gives us the ability to provide more overall highway capacity in the heaviest direction," said Mark Scheibe, of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas Inc., the city contractor selected to complete the study. "There's more capacity made available in the one direction and thus more opportunities for people to buy their way into the (lane)."
The elevated two-lane reversible tollway is now among the mix of transit alternatives the city is expected to study before submitting a report to the City Council later this year. The Council must pick one of the alternatives by the end of the year.
Yesterday, the city, via the Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project, released more details on the HOT lanes.
And their inclusion in the study has Cliff Slater, a longtime critic of rail transit, cautiously delighted.
"It's great," he said, adding that he still believes the overall analysis being done for the city favors rail. "All we're asking for is to be given a fair shake in the alternatives analysis and let the chips fall where they may."
The city is studying four types of transit alternatives, including four rail choices, a no-build option, an enhanced bus service and a managed-lane alternative.
Originally, the managed-lane alternative included only a single option of a two-lane system with lanes running in opposite directions all day.
But critics like Slater said the managed lanes were not a HOT system because of the opposite lanes.
"We got comment from various people that that wasn't what they were talking about in terms of HOT lanes," Scheibe said.
As a result, Scheibe said, a HOT lanes option was added to the managed-lane alternative.
HOT lanes would run into town during morning rush hour and be reversed for the afternoon commute out of town.
Buses and high-occupancy vehicles would be allowed on both managed-lane options, and single-occupant vehicles would need to pay a toll to get on them. The more traffic in the lanes, the higher the cost to get on.
"The intent is to have the rates set at such a level that (the lane) doesn't get overcrowded -- that's the purpose of a having a variable rate," Scheibe said.
Slater said that the toll would also help to offset the cost of the lanes.
Slater said he would like to see the city also charging a toll to vehicles with two or three occupants for not only more revenue, but also because it could be an administrative nightmare to determine how many people are in a car.
Motorists traveling on H-1 and H-2 freeways would be able to flow right into the managed lanes that would begin at the H-1 Waiawa interchange. It would then run elevated above Kamehameha Highway through Pearl City and Aiea.
A second access point to the lane would be near Aloha Stadium, and it would continue next to the current H-1 viaduct above Nimitz Highway before connecting to the anticipated Nimitz flyover that the state is planning to construct between the Keehi interchange and Iwilei.
Scheibe said they have not yet estimated the cost to construct such lanes. Slater said that his group, honolulutraffic.com, estimates it would cost anywhere from $450 million to $900 million to build HOT lanes.
Scheibe said that the one-lane-in-each-direction option would be friendlier for bus riders because it would pull the buses out of the traffic all day.
The advantage of HOT lanes option, he said, would provide more highway capacity for vehicles during peak travel times.
Slater contends that HOT lanes would take 25 percent of vehicles off the current highways.
"It won't be as un-congested as it would on the tollway, but at ground level there would be a noticeable reduction," Slater said. "(HOT Lanes) will take cars off the road -- guaranteed."