State is looking for cooperation from city on stimulus plan


POSTED: Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last Monday, Gov. Linda Lingle hosted a news conference to announce an unprecedented effort by her administration, the neighbor island mayors, federal agencies, trade unions, contractors and the private business sector to help the state meet current economic challenges through a $1.8 billion statewide capital improvement plan. The governor pledged total collaboration by her administration, including staff in all state departments, to work closely with the counties to facilitate state and county construction projects.

With that as a backdrop, it was surprising and disappointing to hear and read comments from the mayor of the City and County of Honolulu regarding what he said has been a lack of support and involvement by the state with the city's rail project. Contrary to his statements, the state has been extremely cooperative in ensuring that the city has all of the information and attention required to make the best, most transparent decisions it can for a project that will have such a significant impact on the future of so many people in Hawaii and those who visit us.

The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has worked diligently with the city in making lands available at the old Navy Drum site near Leeward Community College as a possible maintenance and baseyard facility that will serve as the nerve center for the entire rail system.

  DHHL and the Department of Land and Natural Resources have also worked with the city to rapidly resolve land issues for stations and park and rides along the rail route in the Kapolei region and have developed a comprehensive community development plan for East Kapolei through collaborative planning and coordination with the University of Hawaii-West Oahu, the DeBartolo shopping center development and the Department of Transportation in building a community that will serve as a work-live-play model throughout Hawaii. And, more importantly, the East Kapolei community is being planned, in coordination with the city, around multimodal transportation opportunities including bicycling, walking, shuttle and bus services and, of course, rail transit.

In addition to the discussions and negotiations with other state agencies, the DOT also has been the lead agency for the state in working with the city on developing many of the parameters and guidelines for the rail project. Considering that more than half of the rail system will be within DOT highway rights of way, it was very important that open and constant communication continue between the city and the state.

In fact, the DOT requested monthly meetings be held between the DOT, the city and their rail transit consultants almost two years ago - meetings that continue today. It should be noted that the last monthly briefing by the city and their consultants to the DOT was as recent as this past Wednesday. These monthly briefings are also accompanied by numerous other meetings with the various technical staff offices within the DOT, whether it is the property management offices in both the Airports and Highways Divisions, or the traffic, design, planning, hydraulic, maintenance, landscaping or construction offices to discuss in greater detail many of the issues that will need to be analyzed, mitigated or overcome as part of the environmental impact statement, design or construction process for the rail transit project.

We have considered ourselves partners in this effort, offering to expedite many of our reviews to assist in the city's aggressive and optimistic schedule. It is flat wrong for the mayor to characterize our efforts as being uncooperative.

  While continued collaboration on rail transit is important to address transportation solutions and help our economy over the long term, it is vital that we also work together to ensure other critical infrastructure improvement projects move forward now in order to stimulate our economy and create jobs. Of the $1.8 billion in state construction projects being prioritized by the Lingle-Aiona administration and its partners, $1,002,675,910 - 803 projects - are slated for Oahu over the next 18 months.

The state looks forward to working with the city on all of these projects, including rail transit, to accelerate the review and permitting processes and to overcome any barriers that might impede our progress and our ability to strengthen our economy and get our residents back to work.


Brennon T. Morioka is director of the state Department of Transportation.