Politics complicates decisions on transit
The City Council is set for a final vote on the first phase of a mass transit system.
A ONE-VOTE margin by which the City Council tentatively approved the first segment
of a mass transit route for Honolulu shows how political divisions deeply influence decisions that have far-reaching, long-term consequences.
What may be best for the majority of taxpayers can fall to secondary importance as alliances and egos are inserted into deliberations.
The Council tomorrow is set to put its final stamp on the initial phase of the transit system with a route that benefits the Salt Lake district represented by Romy Cachola, whose vote was needed to move the project ahead as members turned down three other proposals, including one favored by Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
Cachola's hold-out required the mayor to accept the Salt Lake path instead of an alignment he preferred that would have run further makai to Honolulu Airport. Delays in decisions, Hannemann has repeatedly contended, would jeopardize efforts to get federal transportation funds without which the project would die.
Like Cachola, other members and community and interest groups lobbied for routes they felt would give them an advantage. Said to be the largest public works project ever attempted in the state, the transit system, estimated to eventually cost $5 billion, will spread millions of dollars in government funds and propagate millions more in related housing, retail and other commercial development as it is built out.
City leaders are well aware of the tremendous changes the system will have on Honolulu, but cannot seem to put aside political considerations. Key votes on the project are made against the background of a power struggle that occupies Council members as well as the mayor, who has staked much of his political capital on the project.
The Ewa to Ala Moana route on the table doesn't please everyone, but for all the squabbling, it appears to be a satisfactory start toward offering traffic-bound residents an alternative to driving.
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