Rail route to go via Salt Lake
A final Council vote will be held next week
Salt Lake residents are cheering a City Council vote that would route the first rail transit leg through their neighborhood and bypass Honolulu Airport.
"I think this response by the Council is the result of a strong community action, and I'm very happy with it," Len Pepper, vice chairman of the Aliamanu, Salt Lake and Foster Village Neighborhood Board, said after yesterday's vote.
» What: Special City Council meeting
» Where: Council Chambers, third floor of City Hall
» When: Noon Tuesday
» Why: Final vote on the first transit segment from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center via Salt Lake
The Council voted 5-4 to change the initial route recommended by Mayor Mufi Hannemann, but the action also means that the line will not be going to the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Students did not like that.
"I would say that if this plan does not go to the University of Hawaii at Manoa in its first track, I highly doubt that this committee or any committee will make it go that far ever again. I urge ... this Council to vote down any and all proposals that don't go to the University of Hawaii at Manoa," testified Matthew Gerhardt, UH-Manoa student government senator-at-large.
Hannemann's favored first route runs 20 miles from the proposed University of Hawaii at West Oahu in East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. But instead of the line passing Pearl Harbor, Hickam and the airport as Hannemann urged, yesterday's amendment rerouted it to go down Salt Lake Boulevard.
Because of a procedural problem, a final vote on the amendment could not take place yesterday, and instead a special meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday at noon.
But the mayor called Tuesday's vote "perfunctory" because he does not see Councilmen Todd Apo, Gary Okino, Nestor Garcia, Rod Tam and Romy Cachola switching their positions in support of the amended route that includes Salt Lake.
"I don't think that's going to change, so as far as I'm concerned, it's pau. The decision is made," Hannemann said.
And while Salt Lake was not his first choice, Hannemann said it is a decision by the Council that he can live with.
"We've got an (initial segment) and we're going forward," Hannemann said. "I'm happy. I'm pleased, and I want to say to the people who are pro-transit, what the Council approved is what we're going to do."
Hannemann said it was important for the Council to select a first segment before next week so that the project could be considered for funding decisions by Congress.
"Very shortly we will be asked to submit our application for the 2008 budget for the federal funding," U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie told the Council yesterday. "Please make a decision today. Whatever you're going to decide, decide."
Hannemann said he plans to break ground by 2009 and wants to have a 7-mile section of the first line completed and running by 2012. Expected completion of the 20-mile segment is by 2017.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Councilmen Rod Tam, Romy Cachola and Nestor Garcia debated the route for the first phase of the planned mass transit line yesterday. Because of a procedural problem, the Council will take a final vote on the plan next week. CLICK FOR LARGE
Hannemann stressed, however, that even though the first segment will not be going to Manoa or pass the airport, his intention is to build the entire 38-mile route the Council approved in December, including the destinations of West Kapolei, UH and Waikiki.
Okino offered the Salt Lake amendment as a compromise after the mayor's original proposal did not have enough votes to pass.
"We want to keep this (mass transit) project alive," Okino said.
Toru Hamayasu, the city's chief transit planner, said that by including the Salt Lake option, the first transit leg would cost $3.5 billion, less than the cost of the mayor's original segment.
The mayor and several councilmembers credited Cachola, who represents Salt Lake, with continuing to fight for the line to run through that portion of his district.
Cachola said the credit goes to the area residents.
Several members of the Salt Lake community lobbied the Council and the mayor, telling them hundreds of area residents signed a petition supporting the Salt Lake leg.
"This is what I was fighting for, and I tried my very best," Cachola said after the meeting. "It's a community victory."