No airport rail line for now, mayor says
The city's proposed multibillion rail transit system will probably not be going by the airport in the near future even though the city's environmental study will look at taking the route to the airport, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said.
"In the short term, we are very committed to what the City Council voted for, and that was Salt Lake," Hannemann said. "That being said, we will study the airport route because I think it's the prudent thing to do. And, if and when monies become available or if the will of the Council should change, then it can be revisited."
Hannemann said if the state wants to pitch in to make the airport happen sooner, the state should work to make that happen.
"I think if the state's very interested in this, then I think they should be prepared to weigh in," Hannemann said. "They have an airport fund. Maybe that's what they should dangle before the City Council -- 'Revisit it and come along the airport. We have an airport fund so we can dedicate to help build that spur.' "
Hannemann made his comments days after the city released a report detailing what it would be studying in an upcoming environmental review of the rail transit system with an initial 20-mile segment running from the proposed University of Hawaii at West Oahu campus in Ewa via Salt Lake to Ala Moana Center.
The city said it will study three options: going through Salt Lake; traveling through Salt Lake with a spur to the airport; and going exclusively to the airport and bypassing Salt Lake.
A call for comment to the state Department of Transportation, which oversees the airport, was not returned.
But Councilman Charles Djou, a rail transit critic, said if the mayor is asking the state to "chip in" for the airport spur, it is an indication that the city does not have enough money to complete the project.
"It shows this system is overly burdensome on the taxpayers," Djou said. "But second and more importantly, I think it is extremely odd that the city would choose the less-than-optimal route in order to try and extort some additional monies from the state government, because that seems to be what we're doing."
But Hannemann pointed out that his first choice was the airport route and it was the Council that voted for Salt Lake when there weren't enough votes for the mayor's first choice, which Djou voted against because it did not go to UH-Manoa.
"It would be difficult to reverse (Salt Lake) totally because of the Council vote that was taken, so if anything I could see the airport being added on, unless there is something in an (environmental) study, unless there is something in an engineering study that suggests we cannot go along Salt Lake or the proposed route. Then I think we've got to look to revisit it," Hannemann said.