Mayor down on underground transit
The uncertainty of a dig has Hannemann favoring a solution that is above ground
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he prefers an above-ground route for a rail transit system, especially in light of a fatality this week in a Boston underground highway tunnel.
"My personal preference is that we shouldn't do any tunneling," said Hannemann, who along with members of his Cabinet met yesterday with Star-Bulletin editors and reporters.
Hannemann's comments come as Massachusetts authorities are inspecting the so-called Big Dig project this week after 12 tons of concrete ceiling panels crashed, crushing a car and killing a 38-year-old woman in a tunnel.
The $14.6 billion Big Dig, started in 1991, was the most expensive highway project in U.S. history. The project included burying Interstate 93 beneath downtown Boston. It also gained nationwide notoriety for its soaring costs, years of traffic snarls, the criminal investigation into the concrete suppliers and leaks that sprouted in another Big Dig tunnel.
"I think given the Big Dig experience, given the fact that who knows what we'll find when we dig under, I think it'll really be very, very costly," Hannemann said.
But the mayor said that tunnels will remain an option for now.
"Once again in the interest of transparency and also in keeping with the federal criteria that we need to put all options on the table, we have to do that," Hannemann said.
As a requirement for federal funding, the city is studying four transit options including rail, a reversible toll highway and an enhanced bus system. The City Council is slated to select a system and route later this year.
Following the study's analysis of costs, engineers said new technology makes tunneling more cost-effective than it was 14 years ago, the last time the city seriously considered a rail system.
Managing Director Wayne Hashiro said, however, that it might be too risky to go underground.
"What's going to happen if we hit something? Then that whole system stops," said Hashiro, an engineer. "If we go above ground, there's less chances of an archaeological find that's going to prevent the route from continuing, and if there is, we can still do a reroute. But once you go underground, it's extremely difficult."
Hannemann said he sees several advantages to an elevated rail system, including providing riders with picturesque views of Oahu and providing a reminder to motorists that they have another option in their commute. "It's a nice little incentive as people are stuck in traffic and seeing you winging by in the morning."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.