City study of rail system
may cost up to $5 million

The City Council gave the green light yesterday to begin a study of constructing a fixed-rail system on Oahu.

"This resolution is essential to show the city's support for this fixed-rail system," said Councilman Gary Okino, a member of the governor's task force that recently endorsed a 22-mile light-rail project from Kapolei to Iwilei at a cost of $2.6 billion.

The resolution, which passed unanimously, does not commit the city to the rail project, but only sanctions an updated "work plan."

"The best decisions are informed, and this resolution would only authorize a work plan ... so we can come to an informed decision should we decide to move ahead with fixed rail," Council Transportation Chairman Nestor Garcia said.

City Transportation Director Cheryl Soon said such a study could cost $4 million to $5 million, but it would depend upon what the Council wants.

"I think the intention of this (resolution) was to say to the state, 'Yes, let's talk,'" she said.

Soon said she plans to gather the plans from 1992 -- the year the City Council voted against raising taxes to fund a fixed-rail system -- and brief Council members on what those plans entail. It would then be up to the Council to decide in what direction it wants to proceed -- a route that could differ from the plan offered by the state task force.

"My feeling is, rather than us coming to them and be advocating something, they need to be directing us what it is they want us to do for them," Soon said.

Members of the Council apparently already have ideas of their own.

Councilman Romy Cachola suggested a starter line that would run from Waikiki to Aloha Tower and then connect up with a ferry system.

"That to me is a good start," he said.

Cachola proposed that instead of the state spending $200 million on an elevated highway on the median of Nimitz Highway, the money could be used to fund his proposed rail route.

But some in the community are opposed to rail.

David Bohn, a member of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board, said people in his community he has talked to do not see the advantages of the project.

"Most people objected to having their taxes raised for something that we've been spending millions of dollars for years and nobody wants," Bohn testified.

But Okino said that without this system, people will not be able to travel anywhere because of the gridlock.

"We have to find some way to get this thing implemented. If not, within the next 10 to 20 years, this island is going to be in big trouble," Okino said.

Okino said the rail project will help everyone on this island -- no matter where they live -- because it will help ease the future gridlock that is projected for downtown.

"This will be like an escape valve," he said.


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