What’s behind resistance to UH-West transit stop?
I'm glad that Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Laura H. Thielen wants Mayor Mufi Hannemann to work directly with her office so she "can provide him with accurate information," as stated in her letter published on April 14. The misinformation surrounding the University of Hawaii-West Oahu transit alignment continues to create frustration for our department's planners, who have tried for nearly two years to have the campus directly served by transit. Knowing the truth would be great.
It also would be great for the students at UHWO to understand why a station isn't planned for their campus. Is it really because of safety, noise and aesthetics, as UHWO asserts? I'm sure the students would prefer to have a station on or next to the campus.
The city made clear to UHWO from the start of our discussions regarding this project nearly two years ago that a preferable alignment would directly serve the UHWO campus. However, UHWO has consistently opposed our efforts to locate a transit station on the campus, or even adjacent to it.
Because it's been difficult understanding the resistance of UHWO, it also would be good to know the truth about who's really making the call on the system's alignment. Is it UHWO, or is the school constrained by the terms of its sales agreement with a development partner, in essence, having the developer dictate the alignment?
It should be noted that the route preferred by UHWO does not include a station on, or adjacent to, the campus, but instead would locate a station at the planned commercial development near North-South Road. While the city does not consider this route optimal, we are willing to accommodate such an alignment if all state entities and development partners, including DLNR, can come together in a timely manner and speak in support with one voice.
Realigning the route to accommodate UHWO's preference would delay completion of the draft environmental impact statement for this project. The city is willing to make such a sacrifice, but time is of the essence.
It's unfortunate that UHWO did not contact Thielen sooner than November, since it was well aware of the need to utilize DLNR land in order for rail to service its property. The mayor stated in an Oct. 2 letter to UH President David McClain that the city could no longer wait and that without a commitment to allow UHWO to use DLNR land, the city will have no choice but to adjust the alignment and proceed with the preliminary engineering and draft environmental impact statement. In a second letter to McClain, in November, the mayor extended a personal invitation to meet if there was a demonstration on the state's part that the DLNR parcel would be available to accommodate the proposed alignment by UHWO.
We recognize a decision to dispose of, or transfer, DLNR land takes time and requires board approval. Despite the city's numerous requests, however, UHWO could not give any assurance nor did it provide any indication that use of the DLNR parcel was attainable. To the contrary, the feedback we received from the UHWO team was not positive at all.
We welcome accurate information, but what we really need at this time is the bottom line: What has DLNR done since November to provide UHWO with a commitment to use its land so that transit can better serve the campus and community?
David Tanoue is deputy director of the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting.