Using old OR&L path for rail not practical


POSTED: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kioni Dudley, apparently without having done any significant research or due diligence, proposes using the old Oahu Railway & Land (OR&L) right-of-way for the Honolulu rail transit route (”;Rail route, agenda scrutinized,”; Star-Bulletin, Island Commentary, Feb. 15).

Perhaps Mr. Dudley should ask the residents living in the Ewa Plain what they think about his proposal, since it would put a major construction project on their doorstep. It would displace dozens of families and businesses in that area to construct stations, park-and-ride lots, and other facilities needed for the project.

This is one of the many drawbacks the city discovered when, in response to community comments, we studied building the rail line along the former OR&L right-of-way.

Other issues included conflicts with the utility corridor underneath the OR&L right-of-way, as well as federal law that prevents the use of recreational and historic resources for transportation purposes. The old OR&L line travels through the Ewa historic district that has many restrictions as to what can be built or developed there. For example, those restrictions forced the state to realign the North-South Road away from the historic Ewa Villages area. There is also the question of access to the rail. Putting the rail route along the Waipahu shoreline, as Mr. Dudley suggests, would make the system less accessible to all development mauka of Farrington and Kamehameha highways and squander an opportunity for connections between cars, buses and the rail.

Mr. Dudley also criticized what he called “;inadequate”; park-and-rides at rail stations along the west end of the rail route. The project will provide thousands of park-and-ride spaces, but, more important, city bus service will be revamped once the rail service is in place. Instead of the buses being used for long commutes between West Oahu and town, they will be reassigned to shorter shuttle runs at each community rail station.

His claim that rail will deface Waipahu flies in the face of the Waipahu neighborhood board, which has made rail and transit-oriented development its priority issue, and has endorsed the city's plan.

Mr. Dudley's claim of 142,000 cars from West Oahu to town on the H-1 freeway during rush hour is ridiculous. It is physically impossible because it would require 70 lanes of traffic.

Finally, for Mr. Dudley to say that rail won't ease traffic congestion and won't help commuters shows a profound lack of understanding. One of the main goals of this project is, and always has been, to increase mobility for west side commuters. Rail will reduce travel times, take 30,000 cars off the roads and save commuters money on gas and vehicles maintenance.

Wayne Yoshioka is director of the city's Department of Transportation Services.