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Airport route makes sense for rail line


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POSTED: Sunday, February 01, 2009

After months of political maneuvering, the City Council has agreed to run the rail transit system through Honolulu Airport instead of Salt Lake, a route that initially was approved to gain enough votes for passage. The airport route makes sense because it is estimated to carry more passengers, eventually serving Waikiki.

The Salt Lake route was approved nearly two years ago after Mayor Mufi Hannemann apparently was under the impression that he needed that route to garner the vote of Councilman Romy Cachola, who represents the district, in favor of the rail system between Kapolei and Ala Moana. Cachola said last year that he would have voted for the rail system anyway.

The airport route would cost $200 million more to build than the Salt Lake route, but it would average an estimated 95,000 passengers a day, 7,000 more than the Salt Lake route would attract, according to a draft environmental impact statement. The airport route also would require less land conversion.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor has asked the Council to move the rail away from Halekauwila Street, next to the Prince Kuhio Federal Building, to Queen Street, because of security concerns. Gillmor has expressed concern about possible terrorist threats to the federal buildings, which would be “;prime targets.”;

Gillmor told the Council that the rail line would be at the same level as the windows of three judges' chambers, but Toru Hamayasu, the city's chief transit planner, said the rail's level can be changed in the vicinity. He said the rail plans meet requirements of the Department of Homeland Security and can be changed, if needed, to comply with what Gillmor has described as “;classified”; requisites.