Council takes new look at mass transit options
After failing last month to make a critical decision of selecting the technology for the $3.7 billion mass transit system, the City Council will revisit the issue at a meeting Wednesday.
The City Council will consider two new bills, introduced by Councilmembers Donovan Dela Cruz and Ann Kobayashi, that would include rubber-tire bus and magnetic levitation -- two options that Mayor Mufi Hannemann and four other councilmembers have dismissed in favor of steel rail.
Dela Cruz acknowledges that it will be an uphill battle to change the minds of councilmembers who are strong supporters of an elevated steel rail system. The effort could also be in vain since Hannemann has vowed to veto any measure that does not include steel rail.
"The more we discuss technology, the more we find out information that was being withheld or that makes us question how a lot of money is being spent," said Dela Cruz, who has criticized the Hannemann administration for not being more transparent. "I hope the public is going to participate and let their councilmembers know they want one of these alternatives."
One bill selects rubber tire while the other includes rubber tire and magnetic levitation.
After two long, frustrating meetings last month, the City Council deadlocked 4-4 several times when discussing transit technology in the absence of Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall.
Marshall, who was off island because of a family emergency during those meetings, is ultimately responsible for bills the City Council considers. Marshall, who has not publicly voiced her opinion on transit technology, has declined repeated requests for comment since returning to work.
The City Council typically passes bills on first reading without much debate to allow more discussion during committee meetings. Some councilmembers, including steel-rail proponent Gary Okino, have expressed frustration with the Council's indecision and echoed Hannemann's view to reject any measure that does not select steel rail.
Transportation and Public Works Chairman Nestor Garcia, a rail proponent, said he intends on taking up the bills again if they pass first reading. Asked whether it is worth the time revisiting the issue despite the slim chances the outcome could change, Garcia said, "One never knows what one may learn on these hearings."
This is seen as one of the most important decisions the City Council will make on what would be the state's largest public works project ever. After inflation and interest, city officials estimate the cost of the 20-mile project will be close to $5 billion.
Under a 2006 ordinance, the City Council has until mid-July to pass a bill selecting the technology. Hannemann submitted a letter on April 17 to the Council that said he intends to move forward with steel rail as the technology.
The ordinance states that the Council has three months to pass a bill selecting technology, or else the mayor's decision stands.