Mayor’s transit proposal rankles Council
Mayor wants experts to guide plan; City Council will discuss abdicating control of the project
STORY SUMMARY »
The decision of selecting the technology of the city's planned fixed-guideway transit system should be left up to the experts, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday, angering some council members who say the choice should be theirs.
At the city's Transit Symposium at Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, he made a series of announcements on the city's planned fixed-guideway system:
» A proposal would require City Council OK to authorize a panel of technology experts to select the technology for the fixed-guideway that goes from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.
» A key U.S. congressional committee approved $15.5 million in federal funds for preliminary engineering and design.
» Consultants for the city will include a station at the Honolulu Airport in its environmental studies for the transit project, opening possibilities for a future route there.
FULL STORY »
Elected officials shouldn't select the technology for the city's billion-dollar planned fixed-guideway transit system, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday in a speech before City Council members, local planners and national transit experts.
"I'm not an engineer and I'm not a transit expert," Hannemann said. "Therefore, public officials should not be in a position to select that technology. It should come from the experts in the field."
The proposal to have a panel of experts select the technology -- a magnetic levitation train or a system with steel wheels, beams or rubber tires -- was a part of a series of announcements at a city-sponsored Transit Symposium at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall yesterday.
The proposal, which City Council members will discuss at a committee meeting Nov. 29, would ask companies to submit information on the eligible technologies for the city's project that runs from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.
Then, five technology experts -- four selected by the city administration and one by the Council -- would pick the best choice depending on several factors, including cost, performance and community needs, said Councilman Nestor Garcia.
If the mayor's proposal is approved by the full Council, the city administration would need to create a detailed plan by early next year on selecting technology panelists, Garcia said. Hannemann said he wants to break ground on the project in 2009.
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi opposes the proposal because the Council voted last year to reserve the right to select the transit project's technology.
"We can have that panel. We will listen to them," she said. "But they shouldn't make the decision. We're elected by people in our districts to make those decisions."
Hannemann argued that this will also take the politics out of a key decision. However, Kobayashi said it depends on the way the panelists are selected, especially if most are chosen by the mayor.
Michael Townes, a symposium speaker and head of Hampton Roads Transit in Virginia, said: "You can't divorce politics from decision making. But I think you can present technical expertise to the point where the Council is making an informed decision. The mayor is wise in involving the experts."
Also yesterday, Hawaii's congressional delegation announced that $15.5 million in federal funding for the 20-mile system, which will cost $3.6 billion to $3.8 billion, was approved in a key committee. The money would go toward the preliminary engineering and design of the project.
Consultants will include Honolulu Airport in its environmental studies so a route going to the airport can be added to the project later, as demonstrated by other cities.
"The key is that it needs to be studied. We put it in the (environmental impact statement)," Hannemann said.
A crucial City Council 5-4 vote last year rejected a route to the airport that will instead go to Salt Lake.