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City Council gets behind new airport route for rail


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POSTED: Thursday, November 13, 2008

The City Council pushed forward legislation yesterday that would change the city's planned $5 billion rail transit route to go to the airport, resurrecting a 2-year-old debate and angering advocates of the alignment going to Salt Lake.

               

     

 

 

WHAT'S NEXT

        The City Council's Transportation and Public Works Committee will discuss Bill 64 to alter the rail transit route to go to Honolulu Airport in depth at a meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. next Thursday.

       

       

In a 7-1 vote, the City Council gave preliminary approval to Bill 64, which would alter the 20-mile transit route to go to the airport and to Pearl Harbor Naval Base instead of the Salt Lake residential area. The rest of the route, beginning from Kapolei and ending in Ala Moana, would stay the same.

The lone dissenting vote came from Councilman Romy Cachola, who represents Salt Lake and was the critical swing vote in 2005 that enabled the city to move ahead with the project. Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, was absent from the meeting.

The City Council typically passes bills in its preliminary stages to encourage more discussion, but Cachola called on the other councilmembers to stop the bill since it would break an alleged promise made to Salt Lake residents by Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

“;The exact words of the mayor were, 'If you want Salt Lake, I will give it to you,'”; Cachola said. “;He said at the time we need a fifth vote, and it's me. I just want him to at least say that he made the commitment to the community and he should honor that.”;

;[Preview] New Transit Route Proposed
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Many City Council members think that it would make more sense by suggesting to move the transit system towards the airport.

 

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In a news conference last week, Hannemann was quick to emphasize that though he has always preferred the airport route, it is the City Council that is initiating this recent change.

The city administration is taking a hands-off approach to the alignment change. No city representative testified at the City Council meeting yesterday. Outside the Council chambers, city Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka said the route is a decision left up to the City Council.

“;(The mayor's) commitment, unlike what Councilman Cachola said, is that he would accept what segment the Council would adopt,”; Yoshioka said. “;True to his word, he accepted that commitment, and right now, Councilman (Charles) Djou and Councilman (Todd) Apo are proposing to ... to designate the airport route first.”;

“;This decision on a system this big and this important cannot be based on the political games that were going on a few years ago,”; Apo said. “;It needs to be based on what is the best route for this system that the voters said to go and do. The very broad opinion is that the Pearl Harbor/airport route is the better route. That's what needs to guide this discussion.”;

The airport route would cost $200 million in construction costs and could push back Hannemann's goal of groundbreaking late next year.

“;There will be slight delay,”; but it would be minor at worst, Yoshioka said.

Djou, one of the councilmembers who introduced the bill, called on Hannemann to veto the bill if its approval would break a promise made to the community.

“;Ultimately if the mayor gave his word, he should veto this measure,”; said Djou, who has consistently opposed rail until a majority of voters approved a ballot measure last week.