Rail study to review Salt Lake, airport lines
The Mayor's insistence on rail disappoints some Council members
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An environmental impact study will look at three alignments of the city's proposed multibillion-dollar mass transit route.
They are: one through Salt Lake only, another through Salt Lake with a loop to the Honolulu Airport, and a third one that goes only to the airport and bypasses Salt Lake.
Even though the city will study the environmental effects of the airport-only line, it doesn't plan to go to the airport exclusively.
"The City Council already made the decision to go to Salt Lake," said Toru Hamayasu, the city's chief transportation planner, referring to the Council decision on the first 20-mile segment of the system.
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Two City Council members say they are disappointed that Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration is riding a rail transit plan and failing to board a proposal for a high-speed bus guideway.
"Because they want rail and that's all they want is rail," Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann wants to break ground in 2009 on the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project. The project's time line:
» Begin environmental impact statement study
» Draft EIS ready, with hearings at midyear
» Preparation of final EIS in second half of year
» Final EIS issued in early in year
» Federal Transit Administration's record of decision issued by midyear
Councilman Charles Djou said: "I think it's a mistake to disregard a high-speed bus mode. I think it has been successfully applied in other locales."
The Council members made their comments yesterday after the release of a report detailing what the city will study in the environmental impact statement for a multibillion-dollar mass transit system -- including a Council-rejected route by Honolulu Airport.
The report said an elevated bus guideway would be more costly than rail and have more adverse impacts because it would need a massive, wider infrastructure to accommodate passing buses and more on- and off-ramps.
"(T)he alternative is not being advanced for analysis in the EIS," the report said.
The city's chief transit planner, Toru Hamayasu, said that because the buses won't be studied in the environmental review, it won't be considered by the city when a decision is made on technology.
Hamayasu said a bus causeway would not fit within the definition of a fixed guideway, which is what the Council chose. Some of the technologies that will be considered include a monorail, light rail, magnetic levitation and rapid rail.
Hamayasu said the city, however, will also continue to consider rubber-tire trains similar to the vehicles used on the Paris Metro.
Kobayashi said she believes that a bus guided magnetically along an elevated structure would be more cost-effective and flexible than a train, especially during emergencies when the concrete infrastructure could be used for emergency vehicles to pass through.
"The public only knows about one because the other one doesn't even have a chance for being presented," said Kobayashi, who added that she believes the Council could still intervene.
The mass transit report said the city will be studying the environmental effects of an airport-only route. But that's all the city will do -- study it, Hamayasu said.
The environmental study will also look at the route through Salt Lake as the City Council chose earlier this year in a decision on the 20-mile first segment.
But because the airport is included as part of the overall 38-mile route, the environmental study will also look at an airport segment that will shoot off the main Salt Lake line and loop back to meet up with the main line at the Middle Street transit station.
"Those are the two that we are going to do," Hamayasu said of the Salt Lake-only route and the combination Salt Lake and airport route.
Djou said he believes not going exclusively to the airport is also a mistake.
"If you're going to do an expensive project, at least do it right -- you've got to go to the airport," Djou said. "I'm glad they're studying it, but I don't think you need to study it. It's simple common sense. You need to connect to the airport."