Building a new highway is logical solution to easing congestion on H-1
When schools exceed their carrying capacity, government builds more classrooms. When the prisons fill up, we make room by sending inmates to the mainland. When it comes to overcrowding on our freeways, the state merely needs to construct another freeway. It's that simple.
The H-1 freeway was built to accommodate up to 9,500 vehicles an hour, on average. So why then, does the state Department of Transportation look the other way when this number is exceeded?
Instead of pursuing a new expressway as the solution to overcrowding on the H-1, many of my colleagues have endorsed maneuvers to pressure people out of their cars and off the roads altogether. To my disappointment, our state has embraced a ploy to fight traffic congestion that includes everything but doing what is needed, and that is to add capacity to our interstate and highway system.
Imagine if the DOT's attitude were shared by the fire department when people over the occupancy limit for a banquet room decide to cram themselves in anyway. We don't let event promoters sell more tickets than they have seats, airplanes fly over a weight limit or cruise ships leave port with more people on board than can be accommodated with life rafts. Similarly, then, the state should deploy the same protective standards for setting safety and service criteria upon the H-1 freeway corridor starting with the addition of more lanes to meet the demand.
Statistics provided within the City and County of Honolulu's Alternative Analysis Report reflect that in 2003 an average of 10,960 vehicles an hour were using the H-1, and forecast that number to be at 17,209 by the year 2030 (and that's with rail in full operation). Such over-usage of vehicles on the H-1, exceeding capacity specifications, could be contrived to be as dangerous as conditions that caused the Minnesota bridge collapse due to wear and tear above and beyond expectations.
Adding another route linking Kapolei with town can be accomplished by either elevating an expressway over current thoroughfares or by constructing it as a tunnel option. In any event, one or the other must be deployed to sustain our economy and enhance the requisites associated with getting goods, services and freight to their destinations efficiently. No rail alignment or bus service can accomplish that feat.
If the state Senate would merely pass the enabling legislation for the toll road concept that 31 other states have done, an entire expressway could be constructed within five years without raising taxes.
Most troubling though, is that during testimony on House Bill 3004 this session that directed the DOT to identify where an expressway potentially could be situated, the DOT took a position against the measure, citing that mapping out and preparing for the future to accommodate the motoring public's needs was an inappropriate expenditure of tax payer monies.
The public should know that the House of Representatives passed toll road legislation in 2007, endorsed the tunnel concept in 2005 and has so far this year taken a position to advance HB 3004 for further discussion. Unfortunately, the House cannot resolve the transportation crisis alone and needs the governor, Senate and Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee members to agree that Hawaii must get back into the highway-building business. Until this simple directive is acknowledged, expect the transportation crisis on Oahu to worsen.
Rida Cabanilla-Arakawa (D, Waipahu-Ewa) is a member of the state House of Representatives.