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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 17, 2001

Commuter air system could fly

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

You can drive from New York to Boston and from Orlando to New Orleans on highways built with federal aid.

You can even take a ferry in parts of the nation and have part of the cost covered by federal highway money. You can also, in many areas, cross the water on federally financed bridges.

But you can't get from Kahului to Honolulu that way, or from Hilo to Los Angeles.

Tony Locricchio would like to see that change.

Hawai'i has the same right to federal highway money as other states, and if ground or ocean traffic isn't feasible, how about air?

A federally subsidized air highway system, under which you'd pay a nominal toll to catch a flight from one place to another, could absolutely revitalize Hawai'i's economy, Locricchio said.

The Honolulu attorney has been actively involved in transportation through his support and management of electric vehicle firms. He is president of Personal Electric Transports, which is negotiating to provide Los Angeles with electric vehicles.

Under his plan, "Highways in the Sky," or alternatively, "Bridges in the Sky," airlines would be reimbursed for passengers who use them after paying an annual toll.

It would improve the financial health of our critical airlines, and allow Hawai'i residents to have the same commuting benefits many Mainlanders enjoy.

It would allow Neighbor Island residents to get inexpensively to O'ahu jobs, and let Honolulu folks move to quieter residential areas on the Neighbor Islands without giving up their city jobs. Students could get to university classes on other islands. Patients could cheaply travel to visit medical specialists.

Tourists could use the system, too, for West Coast-to-Hawai'i travel and interisland flights. The cheap travel would make the Islands a much more attractive visitor destination.

The state would benefit from an improved economy.

"The current economic recovery plans under consideration for Hawai'i are, at best, patchwork solutions that will not cure the vast scope of Hawai'i's economic woes," he said.

"In short, the empty planes, empty rental cars, empty tour buses, empty airports demand new and effective long-range thinking. Hawai'i's economy is severely boxed in. It's time to start thinking outside the box," he said.

Citizens would still be paying the cost of transportation, but through taxes rather than per-flight airfares. The annual toll to use the system might be $400, he said. That's comparable to the cost of using a toll road on the Mainland.

Locricchio concedes it's a wild idea, and "so far out of the box that nobody will listen to it." Anyone interested can e-mail him at pet.vehicles@verizon.net

Jan TenBruggencate is The Advertiser's Kaua'i bureau chief and its science and environment writer. Reach him at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.