H-1, H-2 can't take more Ewa development
POSTED: Saturday, November 29, 2008
Under ordinary circumstances, the five-year-update of the Ewa Development Plan would attract little attention. In its current form, however, the just-finished revision will condemn commuters on the H-1 and H-2 to ever-worsening traffic jams, with no possibility for relief.
The H-1 already has the worst freeway traffic congestion in the United States. With roughly 65,000 cars on the freeway every day, we have exceeded its carrying capacity. There is no room for more cars.
There is only one automobile corridor to town. The state Department of Transportation tells us that it cannot be expanded beyond Zipper Lanes, and the people wouldn't stand for ugly double-decking in paradise even if there were money for it. Clearly, we have built ourselves into a "no build" imperative for more housing.
But the city doesn't understand this. It has already approved zoning for 33,000 more dwellings on the Ewa plain! Nothing can be done to stop their construction. At two cars per family, that is 66,000 more cars. Two out of every three cars will join the rush-hour traffic to Honolulu.
A new rail system will help, but not much. All studies agree that, even with rail, commuter traffic on H-1 and H-2 will grow worse.
Why is this revision of the Ewa Development Plan important? Because those 33,000 already-zoned homes are not the only thing out there. There's another whole city of houses - 12,000 homes with two cars each - that is just starting the approval process. This project is called Hoopili. And the Ewa Development Plan embraces its existence by including its land within the Urban Growth Boundary, and by planning for it, and planning other projects dependent on it coming to exist.
Hoopili traffic will add to the freeway snarl for everyone on H-1 and H-2, but it will be particularly bad for those living on the Ewa Plain and Waianae Coast. Hoopili will fill the entire open space between Kapolei and Waipahu. All of its traffic will pour onto Fort Weaver Road and H-1 headed to Honolulu in the morning rush. And all of the Hoopili cars will be on the road to town in front of every current commuter from Ewa and Kapolei and beyond. There is nobody who now drives to town from the West side of the island who will not be behind all of the cars from Hoopili.
The Ewa Development Plan contains an adequate-facilities requirement: It states that zoning should be approved only if the responsible city and state agencies indicate that adequate public facilities and utilities will be available at the time of occupancy. It also states, as policy, that the "transportation system should provide adequate capacity for major peak-hour commuting to work in the Primary Urban Center," Honolulu. This requirement cannot possibly be met even without developing Hoopili. This adequate-facilities requirement must be strengthened in the revised Ewa Development Plan. And the city must begin to follow it.
There is another important reason to resist Hoopili. The land it will take is some of our most precious agricultural land. Rated as A and B soils (on an A to E scale), it is all prime agricultural land. It is also low-lying land that gets plentiful sun and drains well. From sugar plantation times, the Hoopili land has been known as the Golden Triangle of farmland on Oahu.
How precious are these A and B lands? Not one acre of A-quality land is found on the Big Island or Lanai. No B quality is found on Molokai or Lanai. And nearly half of Oahu's A and B land has already been covered over by Mililani, Waipio, Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia, the Ewa developments and Kapolei.
When agriculture land is covered with roads and houses, it can never be restored.
Japan went to war with China because it covered over its agricultural lands with houses and couldn't grow enough food. We, too, might need this land for survival. We sit in the ocean 2,000 miles from land. We've seen the price of oil rise so high it destroyed two airlines, caused a major drop in tourism, brought a spike in food prices and made import of many things by air and boat uneconomical. The price of oil can go far higher as China's and India's demand continues to grow exponentially in the face of decreasing supply.
There is further reason for concern: Rising seas could not only destroy tourist beaches, but also could engulf our ports, forcing us to be self-sufficient or perish. We will need lands for biofuels as well as food.
We must save our best farmlands. It makes no sense to cover them. We can save them only with public action.
In its current updated form, the Ewa Development Plan endorses Hoopili. If it passes as it now reads, the developers can use the plan to claim rights for zoning and full approval. The plan must be changed to delete all references to Hoopili as if it were going to be built, and to re-draw the urban growth boundary makai of the Hoopili land. This will happen only if there is public outcry.
Tell city officials that you don't want more cars on the freeway. Tell them you want to see the Ewa Development Plan move the urban growth boundary to exclude all of the currently farmed land between Kapolei and Waipahu. Tell them you want the Hoopili land to remain in agriculture.