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StarBulletin.com

Waipahu residents wary of transit route


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POSTED: Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Waipahu residents attending a city meeting about the design of rail stations veered off the agenda to express concerns about the planned transit route running near their homes or through their businesses.

“I support the rail, but then when I saw the route, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s over my house!” said Ramona Shishido, 47, who lives on Awaiki Place. The rail will run along Farrington Highway on the other side of the Shishidos’ backyard wall.

Last night’s meeting, which drew 122 individuals, was primarily about designing the street-level appearance of the rail stations in their community.

But some attendees asked city officials and other rail experts about the route. One official had a map and was able to pinpoint the path of the rail and the affected landowners.

Four Waipahu businesses and no residents will be affected by the two Waipahu rail stations, officials say. The elevated rail line itself will run down Farrington Highway and the columns will be planted in the median.

City officials said all landowners whose properties are in the rail’s path have been notified, whether their properties will be partially or fully affected, and the city is assisting them in finding comparable properties. The city has projected the cost of land acquisition and relocation of residents and businesses at $130 million.

The city will hire and pay an independent appraiser to determine the fair market value and that will be the starting point for negotiations, said Ed Nishioka, chief public information officer for the city’s Rapid Transit Division.

Ivy Barcenilla, a Waikele Road resident, was relieved that the rail wasn’t going to be affecting her family’s houses.

“It’s still going to affect us in some way because of the noise, especially late at night,” she said. “I’m concerned about the elders, family members, kids and babies.”

Moira Nakamine, 55, a lifelong Waipahu resident, was also concerned about noise especially for the elderly.

“I take care of my mom,” she said. “She’s 88. Anything new is going to freak her out. They say it’s quieter than the bus, but I don’t think so.”

An expert hired by the city said 3-foot high retaining walls along the one continuously welded track will help deflect the noise, and that from 50 feet away, the train is 72 decibels, while a bus is 75 to 80 decibels.

Nakamine said she might try out the rail, but she doesn’t think she can use it since she needs to take her mother, as well as her dogs, by car.

Nakamine said she’s also worried about the aesthetics of the 30-foot high elevated rail system. “It’s not going to look like Hawaii,” she said.

Residents will be allowed to help design the look of the stations to reflect their communities, city officials say.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann told the audience: “We want to break ground in 2009, by the end of this year,” and the first phase will go through Waipahu.

City Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, who was born in Waipahu, said the stations could reflect its plantation heritage, ethnic groups and Hawaiian history.

“If I had my way, I’d make sure there’s palaka and a sugar mill,” Caldwell said.
The next workshops in Waipahu are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 28 and July 8 at the Waipahu Intermediate School.

Thirty-five property owners will be displaced along the entire route from Kapolei to Ala Moana, officials say.