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Business leaders believe rail will be beneficial


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mayor Mufi Hannemann's State of the Rail address was a very timely reminder that Oahu's rail transit project is critical to Oahu and the entire state of Hawaii.

The Hawaii Business Roundtable, which is composed of business leaders and, just as important, represents thousands of employees who live on Oahu, is committed to the rail transit project. A modern, efficient transportation system is essential to the economy, prosperity and quality of life for our island state.

The most congested traffic corridor in the state is between Kapolei and the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Oahu lacks the transit infrastructure needed to reduce that congestion and the residents and businesses are suffering because of it. Our employees and their families, friends and neighbors spend many hours in traffic to get to work or school. The quality of their lives is severely impacted, and as employers, our members are very concerned about the negative impacts of traffic on our employees' lives. Our businesses, just as all the other businesses, must spend more to deliver goods and services. And we must also remember that it impacts the visitors who come to our island. They leave with memories of this beautiful island tainted with their experiences in our traffic congestion. It is clear that we need a mass transit solution to take cars off the roads to relieve some of the congestion and, most important, to provide a more efficient and timely transportation alternative.

As the mayor reported, the Hawaii Business Roundtable conducted its own study of the city's funding plan for the rail transit project. Our analysis took into consideration the current reduced revenue projections. The analysis was scrutinized by our members, who, as business leaders, are very adept at analyzing financial plans. Only after this thorough review were we able to report that we found the overall plan to be sound and conservatively prepared.

The rail transit project is also very critical to creating jobs in our state at a time when jobs are sorely needed. We believe that the start of the rail transit will not only create jobs but will help to increase consumer and business confidence as work is begun. In our recently conducted People's Pulse survey, consumer confidence remains at an all-time low, but we believe that because of its magnitude, the start of the transit work will help to rebuild that confidence. Returning confidence in our economy is an important step in our state's economic recovery.

The Hawaii Business Roundtable fully supports the city's rail transit plan. We believe that it is time for all sectors—county, state, federal—and the entire community to work together as quickly as possible to move this project forward: for all of our futures and for the future of generations to come.

Gary Kai is executive director of the Hawaii Business Roundtable.