What crisis? Senate must think isle traffic is moving just fine
IN THIS year's legislative session, the state House of Representatives again behaved as if we are in a transportation crisis. First, former speaker and Transportation Committee Chairman Joseph Souki heard numerous "toll road" bills that would have permitted the governor to entertain offers from the private sector to build freeways that the state cannot afford to build. Souki provided a sense of hope for the motorist by passing out House Bill 70 with amendments. After a couple more committee hearings and a lively, lengthy, healthy debate on the House floor to pass the bill over to the Senate for consideration, the Senate decided that the measure was not even important enough to warrant a hearing and killed it upon arrival.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2004
The state Senate has refused to hear or has amended transportation-related legislation sent over by the House. Here, rush-hour traffic crawls along near the intersection of Punchbowl and Beretania streets.
Then, to further combat the transportation crisis that members of the House thought we were in, they came up with HB 1547
, HD 3, which would have had Hawaii host the second International Symposium on Tollways and Highways. The first symposium was held last year in Athens, Greece, where more than 500 road-building engineering experts and financiers that fund their transportation projects from 22 countries converged to present their latest highway design and construction techniques deployed throughout the world. With a $50,000 investment as seed money to host the event that could have garnered more than $4 million in revenue for Honolulu, the Senate decided to remove the language from the bill. This means that assistance from the state to bring hundreds of transportation experts directly onto our highways to offer us real traffic solutions could be put in jeopardy this year.
FURTHER exemplifying a sense of urgency that we are indeed in a transportation crisis, the House tried to hoard every penny possible for transportation relief. The House unanimously passed HB 724, HD 1, which would have reduced the amount of money (10 percent) that the state retains upon the one-half-cent general excise tax increase meant for the rail project. The state's role was to collect the tax and deposit the funds into the City and County of Honolulu's treasury. Rep. Marcus Oshiro, chairman of the House Finance Committee, amended the bill beautifully to see that only the actual monetary amount needed to process the GET collection be withheld and that all money left over be provided to the city as was originally intended for the transit endeavor.
As it stands, the state is to profiteer off of the collection process and the money deposited into the general fund. These precious millions could bring in matching federal funds for transportation relief efforts. The Senate would not hear HB 724, HD 1, which translates into moneys specifically meant for transit operations are to be kept in the state's coffers for other uses.
I introduced these three transportation bills assuming that gridlock in its purest form is just a turn away unless additional routes are going to be made available. I thank my colleagues in the House who have agreed with me and supported legislation to address this.
In particular, I am in gratitude for them for passing over to the Senate my bill relating to traffic accident investigations, HB 1549, HD 2, SD 1. If this bill were to become law, we could reduce the duration of lane closures associated from investigating a traffic accident from a six-hour ordeal to an hour or two, like many other states are doing. It's about time our state started utilizing the latest technology to expedite traffic accident investigations and minimize the amount of time roads are closed. Unfortunately, the Senate killed this bill, too, maintaining the status quo whereby the Honolulu Police Department contacts the medical examiner after the HPD investigation is completed, instead of immediately when on the scene as my bill proposed -- saving the motorist precious time.
BUT THEN again, it appears the Senate is not seriously interested in tackling our traffic congestion problem. I certainly would like to know just exactly what roads the Senate members are using to drive to work and get around. In my commute from Ewa to town, conditions are not getting any better, and the train unfortunately is decades away from serving Ewa Beach commuters directly, if at all. Can we conclude, then, that the Senate's attitude toward traffic congestion is that members of the motoring public should just forfeit their cars in order to cope? Please tell me it isn't so and that eventually the Senate will get with the program.
Rep. Rida Cabanilla, a Democrat, represents Ewa, Ewa Beach and Lower Waipahu.