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Thursday, June 8, 2000

Bus drivers union
says mayor’s Chinatown
sidewalk project created
hazardous conditions

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The head of the union representing city bus drivers says Mayor Jeremy Harris has made the Chinatown section of King Street unsafe with a sidewalk-widening project.

Mel Kahele, president of the Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers Local 996, said yesterday the project has narrowed the right lane for buses and is one of the reasons why his union is backing Councilman Mufi Hannemann in this fall's mayoral election.

Kahele said: "King Street is now very dangerous for us to drive through because the mayor has narrowed the four lanes with his latest Chinatown initiative. The public should be upset by this development."

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said the sidewalk widening has reduced the right-side lane of King Street by six inches -- to 10-1/2 feet -- and is part of a $4.9 million project to spruce up landscaping, street lighting, drainage and other improvements.

The improvements are to be done by the end of this month, she said.

Roger Morton, vice president of Oahu Transit Services, which runs TheBus, said all but two buses that normally go through King Street downtown have been rerouted to Hotel Street as a result of the project.

The city has not yet decided if the 15 to 16 bus routes will return to that section of King or stay on Hotel, he said.

But if they returned to King, "we will no doubt intrude on the second lane when we do that," Morton said.

Meanwhile, Harris supporters within the union say the process that led to Hannemann's endorsement was faulty and not reflective of the membership because less than 50 people voted.

But Kahele said there was proper notification for the general membership meeting where the vote was taken, and noted that in the past a political action committee made endorsements without a vote of the full membership.

In all, 41 people voted for Hannemann, three for Harris and three for former Mayor Frank Fasi. The union has 5,665 members.

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