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Rail EIS nearing completion


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POSTED: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Waipahu resident Romeo Garcia said he sees the city's proposed 20-mile rail transit system as a benefit to his community, where many rely upon buses to get to work in downtown Honolulu and Waikiki.

“;The Waipahu community is really excited,”; said Garcia, a member of the Waipahu Neighborhood Board. “;If the rail is built, it will help a lot.”;

As the city edges closer to its goal of completing a final environmental impact statement for the estimated $5.4 billion rail transit system, and breaking ground by the end of this year, some in Waipahu are anticipating a quicker commute.

The city is holding the second of three public workshops at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Waipahu Intermediate School cafeteria, 94-455 Farrington Highway.

The third workshop is scheduled for July 8.

City officials are planning to unveil preliminary sketches and designs of rail transit station entrances at West Loch and at Mokuola Street.

The city plans to start construction in Leeward Oahu because the area provides more space for storage and maintenance facilities for the rail cars, rail transit spokesman Scott Ishikawa said.

Richard H. Oshiro, chairman of the Waipahu Neighborhood Board, said the community hopes that with the rail transit system and the two stations in Waipahu, there will be more interest in commercial and housing development or redevelopment.

“;It's really important to the community because it sets the planning horizon for us,”; Oshiro said. “;There are some areas in Waipahu that really should be redeveloped, and there are no current plans by the city or state to do anything.”;

Oshiro said he also hopes to see design guidelines for the rail transit station at Mokuola Street near the old Oahu Sugar Mill site that are consistent with the historic plantation background of Waipahu.

Neighborhood Board member George Yakowenko, 77 and a retiree, said he fears the city's projections of ridership and low fares are too optimistic and will eventually result in raising taxes.

“;My concern is there's going to be property tax increase down the road,”; Yakowenko said.

He said as a retiree living on a fixed income, “;You have to watch every penny.”;

For Garcia the rail transit means he might not have to wake up as early to get to work in downtown Honolulu or to his second job in Waikiki.

He rides an express bus at 5:30 a.m. to beat the traffic and be at work at 7 a.m.

The return trip from downtown or Waikiki at 3:45 p.m. takes 40 to 50 minutes, he said.

“;It takes a lot of time,”; he said.