Steel-on-steel isn’t best way to get around Oahu
I support mass transit to relieve traffic gridlock. I have been consistent in my stance since serving as a member of the state House of Representatives and the City Council. By making this statement, I hope that mass transit opponents will stop questioning my support for the project.
However, I still have the following concerns and questions:
» First phase of construction from East Kapolei to Waipahu is impractical. The selling point has been that the project will help alleviate congestion and give motorists a viable alternative. I and other Council members have been asked by our constituents who will ride once this first phase is completed.
I believe ridership will be very low, considering that the bottleneck is at the H-1 and H-2 merge. We can expect decreased ridership and intense criticism. This plays into the hands of the critics who want this project to fail.
If the city wants high ridership levels from the start, we should consider a more convenient route that would bring commuters into downtown, and persuade them to leave their cars at home. I believe this route is from Aloha Stadium to downtown via Salt Lake Boulevard (SLB).
Since the four-mile SLB is already city-owned, we can begin construction in 2009, starting at the Aloha Stadium end of SLB. While construction is ongoing, any downtown right of way and acquisition challenges hopefully can be settled by the time the project reaches urban Honolulu.
» Noise and property values. Since the selection of steel-on-steel as the technology for the transit project, the public has questioned the effects on noise and property values. These fears by homeowners along SLB, Dillingham Boulevard in Kalihi and others close to or along the transit line were further heightened by recent comments by the administration that property values would be negatively affected.
The administration's comments were contrary to what I was told on my transit trips to the mainland and contrary to what I've been telling the public -- that property values along the alignment likely will increase, especially around the transit stations.
Because of this perception and lingering doubts in the minds of the public, more needs to be done to ease their concerns. To address recent questions as to noise and property values, I've asked for clarifying information from the administration, which has yet to be provided to me.
» Technology and cost. Given these concerns, it is crucial for the Council to consider a technology besides steel-on-steel, that will effectively address noise and property value concerns. We also need a technology that will not require much space for a baseyard.
More important, we need to weigh construction costs and operation and maintenance costs, since money from the federal government and increase in the general excise tax as estimated won't be enough to pay for the entire project.
Although I have consistently supported mass transit, it doesn't mean that I will automatically support steel-on-steel. When it comes time to make a final decision on technology, I hope that the information that the Council has requested will be made available so that we can make the best informed decision.
Finally, I'm not inclined to support any increase in property tax or GE tax or floating of bonds to pay for the project. It is important for the Council to pick the most cost-effective technology, because both our present and future taxpayers will have to pay for this project for many, many years.
Romy M. Cachola represents District VII (Kalihi-Salt Lake-Foster Village) on the Honolulu City Council.