Council might put off transit decisions
The mayor says federal funds could be jeopardized by delays
It might be spring before the City Council decides which route to choose for rail or another mass transit alternative.
"So if we got everything to you by March or April, that would follow your expectations?" Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi asked a city administration official during yesterday's Council meeting.
But Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration said that merely picking a mass transit option is not enough to fulfill federal funding requirements, and the Council must also choose a transit route to comply with what the federal government calls a locally preferred transit alternative.
"A locally preferred alternative must include information on benefits, costs and impacts. It is impossible to include that information without selecting the (route)," the city's chief transit planner, Toru Hamayasu, told the Council yesterday.
The Hannemann administration has said it fears that prolonged delays could jeopardize federal funding for the project. And administration officials also said that the longer the Council takes to pick the locally preferred alternative, the cost to develop a new mass transit system continues to rise $300,000 a day.
"Our hope would be that the Council would choose a locally preferred alternative by the end of the year before the tax is collected per their resolution of a year ago," the mayor's spokesman Bill Brennan said.
The Council gave the first of three required approvals yesterday to four transit-related bills that include Bill 79, which would pick four transit options being studied by the administration, including rail, managed toll lanes, an expanded bus system or no new system.
Some councilmembers said that picking the transit alternative now and the route a couple of months later could still keep the project on track.
"I know (the administration) wants this thing to be voted together, which of course needs to be done at some time. As long as we don't delay it too long," said Councilman Gary Okino, a staunch rail proponent. "But I think if we do the first vote, at least we'll be committed to one of the four (transit options)."
Okino said he hopes that the route and the transit technology can be approved by the Council by February.
"I think by deciding, say if we go with rail, that's what the public wants to know," Okino said.
Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said the timetable for the Council approvals is incumbent upon the administration providing the Council with the necessary information.
"They still have to do the initial presentation. We're still waiting for some of the transit-oriented development legislation or material," Dela Cruz said.
The Council has scheduled a special meeting for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to receive the administration's analysis on the four transit alternatives.
Brennan said the administration looks forward to giving that presentation "so the Council has a thorough understanding of the alternatives analysis so they'll be able to select a locally preferred alternative by the end of the year."'