Mayor's transit route wisely foresees Oahu's growth
Mayor Mufi Hannemann is proposing a 20-mile line from eastern Kapolei to Ala Moana Center as the first phase of the island's rail transit system.
MAYOR Mufi Hannemann has settled on a relatively moderate scheme for the first and major phase of a fixed rail system
from the planned University of Hawaii-West Oahu to central Honolulu that recognizes future growth. The alignment should work in early years if it is combined with an efficient bus shuttle system and parking lots serving many residents while they await closer connections.
The cost of building the entire 28-mile system envisioned in the initial plan would cost $4.6 billion to $6 billion, extending from central Kapolei to the UH-Manoa campus, with a leg to Waikiki. The mayor expects the 20-mile rail line to cost $3.8 billion, built with revenue from the one-half percent general excise surcharge and federal assistance that the city hopes will be $1 billion.
Hannemann said he "wanted to have this line where we would carry the most future riders and would best meet what the (federal government) calls the cost-effectiveness criterion." An example is the decision to direct the line west of Waipahu away from Farrington Highway, south to the Ewa and Kalaeloa areas, where major development is planned, and then turn north to rejoin Farrington at Kapolei.
A major decision recognizing future expansion was to direct the line along the H-1 freeway, where it would be near Honolulu Airport, instead of through Salt Lake. The airport connection would come into full play when the Waikiki spur is completed.
Breaking ground on the 20-mile system, what the mayor calls "the first project," is planned for 2009, with up to half of the section -- from Kapolei to Pearl City -- becoming operational by 2012. Completion of the 20-mile line is forecast for 2017 and what is now envisioned as a 30-mile system in another 10 years, including a line along Salt Lake Boulevard.
The overall system gained the City Council's acceptance last month. Its approval of the first segment is needed for an environmental impact statement to be completed in a year and construction to begin. Prompt action is necessary to enable Hawaii's congressional delegation to secure funding while Congress is under Democratic control.
City Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall and Councilman Charles Djou, who have voted against the system, remain skeptical. However, they should accept the decision and restrain themselves from actions that could hamper the system's progress.
UH-Manoa students and people whose areas were left out of the initial stage should understand that the system will not be completed quickly. Instead, it is designed to accommodate future generations of residents as Oahu's second city of Kapolei continues to grow.
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