COURTESY ANSALDOBREDA TRANSPORTATION INC.
Several City Council members agreed during a meeting yesterday that steel-wheel-on-steel-rail vehicles for the proposed mass-transit system would be the best option.
Council pushes steel
A committee moves a bill naming the transit technology, but some express reservations
The city is closer to ensuring steel rail as the technology for the planned $3.8 billion mass-transit system, though some City Council members criticized the administration's decision-making process.
After a long meeting yesterday with extensive public testimony, a City Council committee advanced a bill that names steel rail as the technology, the same option a panel of experts selected last week.
Several councilmembers agreed with the panel's selection that it was the best out of four options for the city, while others pushed for other technologies or continued to object to the project completely.
"It'd be crazy for us to go with anything other than steel on steel," said Councilman Gary Okino. "A good steel-on-steel system is by far the most effective system in minimizing the increasing congestion in the future."
The City Council approved creating the expert panel to select the technology for the city's 20-mile elevated system running from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. Of the four technologies -- rail, rubber-tired bus on concrete, monorail and magnetic levitation -- the panel voted 4-1 for rail.
Despite the panel's selection, the City Council has the right to make its selection as well.
City Councilwoman Barbara Marshall was concerned that the panel made its decision without considering the environmental impacts, such as the humid air causing rusting, and insufficient information provided, especially cost estimates.
"I remain steadfast in my opposition to the entire mass-transit project," Marshall said. "Nonetheless, I did support the creation of the expert panel in hopes that they would give us very objective opinion on what we should do if we go ahead on this, which I hope we don't."
For the first time, City Council members grilled the panel's chairman on the selection criteria and objectivity of its five members, with some saying the process was done in a way to ensure steel wheel on steel rail.
"The mayor had made it very clear several months ago that steel on steel was what he wanted," said City Councilman Charles Djou. "We hired a number of very good gentlemen, probably who were all great experts, and paid them a good amount of money who ultimately ... gave a very nice rubber stamp to exactly what was wanted from the beginning."
Ron Tober, the panel's chairman and former leader of several rail operating systems in the United States, told the committee repeatedly that panel members came with an open mind and had not made their decision prior to their meetings this month.
He also suggested that the city should consider building a portion of the route at ground level, such as in Kapolei where there is no development yet, as a way to save money on the project.
The city administration supports the Council's technology selection bill but said it would like a decision soon to include it in the draft environmental impact statement this year.
City Councilman Todd Apo agreed and said it is time for the Council to move forward.
"This is that big of a project when you can make innuendoes and say we can be doing something different all through this process," said Apo, who added he is interested in a magnetic levitation system. "If we're going to take that mentality and continue to question this, then we're never going to get anywhere."