Isle transportation chief stood firm


POSTED: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Though often controversial, former state Transportation Director E. Alvey Wright never flinched when it came to defending unpopular transportation projects such as the H-3 freeway.

“;He managed to separate his personal feelings from what he needed to get done,”; said son Russell “;Rusty”; Wright. “;When he needed to implement the governor's plans, it didn't become a personal issue, it became a job, a management job, a public relations job, a negotiation.

“;But it never landed personally on him,”; his son said. “;Although nobody likes to be vilified ... he didn't take it personally. He felt it was the best thing for Hawaii, and he agreed personally.”;

Edward Alvey Wright, who served as transportation director under Govs. John Burns and George Ariyoshi, died Jan. 27, nine days after reaching 100.

Probably most remembered for the H-3 freeway before it was rerouted to Halawa Valley, Wright didn't oversee it through to completion, though he was there at its opening.

“;If there were a single event that he expressed pride about, it would probably be the reef runway,”; Rusty Wright said. “;He saw that project from beginning to end,”; from design to getting it through the Legislature and through construction, and often mentioned it.

Wright, a retired rear admiral, also served as commander of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, as well as Charleston Naval Shipyard.

Until his death, Wright remained active, continuing to share his views on transportation with residents by writing letters to the editor.

Most recently, Wright was a vocal proponent of and served in an advisory role to the controversial Hawaii Superferry, and had supported SeaFlight, a short-lived ferry operation that used high-speed hydrofoils more than 20 years ago.

“;The biggest dream that he had that wasn't fully gotten off the ground is use of the ocean as highways,”; Rusty Wright said. “;As a military man, he's used to having ships be conduits for military personnel. He wanted that for the people of Hawaii between the islands.”;

“;Alvey,”; as he was called by friends and family, was married 71 years to his wife, Dorothy, who died in 2004. They lived in Lanikai for 34 years before moving to Pohai Nani.

Born in Richmond, Va., Wright was educated at the University of Virginia, the U.S. Naval Academy, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Business School.

During his Navy career, Wright was technical director of the Navy's ship laboratory and designed aircraft carriers and other combatant warships.

It was his team that designed the USS Forrestal, an aircraft carrier, with an angled deck, which is now the design of aircraft carriers, Rusty Wright said. The design prevents aircraft accidents with parked aircraft upon landing, he said.