Transit plan
details sought

Project critics say more information
is needed before a general excise
tax increase is passed

Critics demanded yesterday to know the transportation plan for which the City Council is considering putting a 0.5 percent surcharge on the 4 percent general excise tax on Oahu.

City & County of Honolulu "I do not think there is a plan. I do not think it is sufficient to say the plan is to fix transportation. I don't think that's adequate for us to be raising taxes," said Councilwoman Barbara Marshall, who continued to object to the bill that would hike the tax. "I think we're moving too fast on this. ... I would urge us to slow down."

A bill that would raise the tax on Oahu was approved yesterday during a joint meeting of the Council's Budget and Transportation and Planning committees. A public hearing on the bill will be held before the Council on June 6 when the Council is scheduled to take its next vote.

The state Legislature approved a measure this past session that gave the counties the authority to raise the excise tax to 4.5 percent to finance transportation projects for the neighbor islands and the cost of a "locally preferred alternative for a mass transit project" on Oahu that many identify as a rail-transit system.

Under the bill, the Council has until the end of this year to enact the tax. The tax won't be collected until January 2007.

Gov. Linda Lingle has not yet decided whether to sign the bill.

City Transportation Director Ed Hirata told the committees that the tax would bring in $2.25 billion at the end of the 15 years that the tax would be in effect. Coupled with an anticipated $500 million from the federal government, the city could build a system for $2.75 billion.

Hirata said the study to determine the "locally preferred alternative for mass transit project" should be completed by the end of 2006, or 18 months after the analysis begins.

Hirata was reluctant to say that the mass transit project would be a rail system.

"I'm saying that until the locally preferred alternative is decided upon any discussion on any type of system is premature," Hirata said. "As far as the administration is concerned there is nothing officially put out saying that we are already decided on a particular alternative."

But Hirata's position prompted Marshall to grill him about what he meant, including why the mayor was reported saying that he foresees the first segment of a rail line running from Kapolei to Waipahu.

"Can you assure me that there is no plan to initiate any kind of a system starting with Kapolei?" Marshall asked.

"It seems to me ... it only allows money to be used for rail," Marshall said.

Others also said that a plan is also needed before the tax goes up because it's not yet known if enough people will ride the system.

"We need to know if they're going to use it," said Carol Pregill, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii.

But Mindy Norris of the Leeward Oahu Transportation Management Association said that she predicts that some of the bus riders would use the train.

| | |
E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com