Council should stand aside from steel rail
The City Council has rejected by a tie vote a proposed endorsement of steel rail as the technology for the mass transit system.
While a quizzical City Council looks on, the city remains on track to go forward with design and construction of a mass transit system. Council members are divided on which technology to use but their failure to endorse should not delay the project. The Council yielded that decision to a panel of experts who chose a steel-wheel rail line and it should not even try to overturn the panel's decision.
With anti-transit Councilwoman Barbara Marshall absent because of a family emergency, the eight Council members were evenly divided on whether to endorse steel. Only two members voted for a bewildering bill naming three technologies -- rail, rubber-tire and magnetic levitation.
The Council is likely to remain irrelevant, mired in what Mayor Mufi Hannemann accurately described as "a state of chaos and confusion." He said he has told his director of transportation services to begin inserting steel as the chosen technology in the draft environmental impact statement. .
Councilman Romy M. Cachola, who has supported the transit system, voted against the steel-technology endorsement because of his concerns about noise and its effect on property values near the rail line. Lawrence Spurgeon, an environmental engineer at Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, a subcontractor for the project, says "there is almost no difference between the technologies in the noise generated."
The project received an important boost last month when Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, promised to support $900 million in federal funds for the $3.8 billion project. After touring the route by helicopter, he said it "would be the most efficient light-rail project in the country. It is essential to undertake this project." Oberstar's counterpart in the Senate is Daniel Inouye.
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