10,300 back anti-rail effort
A group's petition has one-fourth the signers needed to put the issue on November's ballot
An ambitious petition to stop the city from building a $4 billion mass-transit system has garnered about a quarter of the signatures needed to let voters decide in November whether the project should proceed.
Stop Rail Now, an organization opposed to the planned rail system, has collected about 10,300 signatures of the nearly 45,000 needed in its first month of starting the petition. Organizers plan to double their efforts in the next two months by going door to door in neighborhoods and possibly mailing the petition to registered voters.
Dennis Callan, the group's co-chairman, said yesterday the effort is "snowballing" with more people becoming interested and getting involved, but there is concern that they will not reach their goal by the Aug. 1 deadline.
"We're off to a good start," Callan said at the group's new headquarters at 627 South St. "It is a lot of work we have to do. We're doing what we can with what we have."
Last month, the newly formed group launched a community petition to create a city ordinance saying, "Honolulu mass transit shall not include trains or rail transit." This method, which is rarely used, requires signatures from at least 10 percent of the voters registered in the last mayoral election, or 44,435 signatures, according to the City Clerk's Office.
The group contends the planned elevated system from Kapolei to Ala Moana will not alleviate Oahu's traffic congestion and will be too costly for taxpayers. The city estimates that after inflation and interest, the project's total will come closer to $5 billion.
The group, whose members consist of rail opponents from another well-known organization, called honolulutraffic.com, advocates for designated lanes or toll roads.
"We feel the city should cease spending immediately," Callan said. "As long as rail is being considered, the city will not consider other alternatives."
The Hannemann administration has repeatedly rejected these alternatives, saying it had extensively studied toll roads or "HOT" lanes before 2006, when the City Council had voted for an elevated fixed-guideway system. A city consultant's study found that the elevated system will not solve traffic woes, but will help slow the pace of congestion.
Stop Rail Now, which is registered as a nonprofit organization, has raised about $7,000 from donations through its supporters. Callan estimates there are about 200 active volunteers helping with their grass-roots effort to garner more signatures.
Scott Wilson, a Manoa resident and architect, has collected about 50 signatures from his neighbors and relatives. Wilson said he supports mass transit and rail but disagrees with the design of the system, saying it will cause a visual "blight" by blocking the view of the ocean in downtown Honolulu.
"We're desperate now," Wilson said. "We realize we have to stop this project and get the mayor to sit with the community to design this right."