Petitioners arrive late to the train station
Rail opponents have begun a petition drive to put the issue before voters.
An alliance of groups and individuals opposed to the city's plans for a rail transit system might find difficulty in gathering enough signatures to challenge the project if results of a survey showing voter support hold true.
In addition, should the new organization, Stop Rail Now, get the nearly 45,000 signatures needed to put the issue on a ballot, it still will have to convince a majority of Oahu voters to halt the transit program.
The group is arriving too late to the station. The earliest a vote could be taken is in November with the general election, but the city already has begun initial work and has committed or spent more than $100 million on the project. That money will be lost if petitioners win out. Moreover, the holding of the vote itself -- approved or not -- would send the wrong signal to the federal government, which will be considering funding assistance for the city.
The anti-rail contingent argues that the public should have a direct say on the transit system that current estimates peg at $3.7 billion to build, even though elected officials have already approved the plan, if not the technology, and the tax surcharge that will partly pay for it.
The 2004 survey for the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization found that 57 percent of city residents would support a tax increase to pay for rail transit. It also found that 60 percent would back a tax for road widening, 59 percent for new roads and 54 percent for the bus system.
What's clear is that residents see traffic congestion as a problem and want solutions. Although a new transit system won't eliminate congestion on our roadways, city officials have determined that rail will stave off utter gridlock and the dangers to the economy and quality of life that come with it.
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