$2.5B estimate for Kobayashi's mass-transit plan


POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mayoral candidate Ann Kobayashi unveiled her new mass-transit plan yesterday to build elevated three-lane highways for zipper lanes and buses that she says would be 62.5 percent of the cost of Mayor Mufi Hannemann's proposed rail transit system.


;[Preview] Kobayashi Unveils Transit Plan

Kobayashi has been working with Panos Prevedouros and says their project costs 60 percent less than the mayors steel on steel plan.


Watch ]





    Her plan would cost $2.5 billion, as opposed to Hannemann's projected cost of $4 billion, to build a 15-mile elevated highway beginning at the H-1 and H-2 freeway merge in Waipio to downtown Honolulu.

“;It's realistic, it's practical, it's sensible,”; Kobayashi said. “;There's no irresponsible spending.”;

She said construction could start right away if she is elected, but had no estimate of a completion date.

Kobayashi's proposal comes three weeks before the Nov. 4 general election in a mayoral race that has focused primarily on Hannemann's planned rail transit system from Kapolei to Ala Moana.

Kobayashi clashed primarily with Hannemann on the technology of the system, with him favoring a “;steel wheel on steel rail”; system while she pushed for “;rubber-tire bus on concrete”; - basically, a sleeker-looking express bus.

Kobayashi pushed for the bus technology but came up with this plan after receiving the endorsement of former mayoral candidate Panos Prevedouros two weeks ago. She rejected claims yesterday that this was political maneuvering to capture Prevedouros' supporters, though many of them did attend her news conference yesterday.

The major part of Kobayashi's elevated “;guideway”; would have two zipper lanes for carpoolers and one lane for buses, which would be reversible depending on the traffic flow. Her plan also calls for:

» Bus-only lanes for expanded shoulders into Ewa Beach.

» “;Bus Rapid Transit”; system for buses to run on King and Beretania streets to the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

» Downtown “;underpasses,”; or mini-tunnels, on Alakea and Halekauwila streets in downtown Honolulu for buses.

The only way for Kobayashi's plan to be implemented is if she wins as mayor and if Oahu voters reject a proposed City Charter amendment to build Hannemann's system on the November ballot.

“;We have three weeks,”; said Kobayashi's campaign manager, City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz. “;We want to make sure that the voters know the alternatives.”;

Kobayashi boasted that this system would alleviate traffic congestion and cut drive times significantly. For example, she estimated that a drive from Ewa Beach to Honolulu would take 33 minutes and from Mililani to Honolulu would take 26 minutes during rush hour. Typically during rush hour, those drives can take more than 90 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively.

Hannemann's campaign was quick to criticize Kobayashi's proposal, calling it unrealistic. Pro-rail advocates, including Hannemann ally state Rep. Kirk Caldwell, called it an “;11th-hour, half-baked”; idea and a “;flip-flop,”; part of her “;inconsistent”; voting record.

“;This so-called blueprint is one of the worst and least well-thought-out ideas to come down the pike in a long time,”; Hannemann campaign manager A.J. Halagao said in a statement. “;It's BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) all over again, something Councilmember Kobayashi strenuously opposed and with good reason. It's hard to believe that she changed her position once again.”;

The campaign is referring to a 2004 proposal by then-Mayor Jeremy Harris for a 12.8-mile Bus Rapid Transit system that would have used existing lanes for hybrid buses. Kobayashi rejected the plan, which was later scrapped completely, but said her new proposal is nothing like Harris' project.

“;The reason I voted against BRT previously is that it would have gone along Dillingham (Boulevard) and Kapiolani (Boulevard),”; she said. “;In this plan, it uses the parking lanes of King and Beretania during rush hour and that's all. This is elevated. The other wasn't. There's a big difference.”;

Kobayashi has repeatedly criticized Hannemann for his confidence in receiving up to $900 million in federal funding for his project, as promised by ranking U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar last year. She said because of the declining economy, the federal government wouldn't have those kinds of funds to disperse.

With her plan, however, she said there is more likelihood of receiving nonlocal funding because it is eligible for money from the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration. Kobayashi said she hopes to receive up to $1.2 billion from each agency.

The Hannemann campaign viewed it differently, questioning whether the plan would be eligible to receive local funding from a half-percent increase in the state general excise tax that says the money can't be used to build or fix highways.

“;The plan will not qualify to use the GET, and with no local funding mechanism, it will also fail to qualify for FTA funds,”; Halagao said.