City officials to 'huddle' on long-term transit plans
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer
The city will begin studying long-term transit options in July and hopes to come up with a plan of action by early 2007, Transportation Services Director Ed Hirata said yesterday.
Using about $10 million in federal and local money, city officials hope the study, which will include rail, ferry and highway options, will identify a locally preferred transit alternative for the future, Hirata said.
The end result of the study will be a draft environmental impact statement used to proceed with projects designed to ease O'ahu's traffic congestion. The city has developed three similar plans in the past 20 years but failed to implement any of them.
Although the new study would not focus strictly on rail, that would be one of the main options, Hirata said.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann, returning from a Mainland trip yesterday, said he plans to meet with Hirata and other city officials this week to set the planning process in motion.
"We're going to sit down and huddle," he said. Ferries, rail and other ideas all will be open for discussion, he said.
"You've got to throw everything out there and see what happens," Hannemann said.
Moving ahead with the study will be contingent on state and city lawmakers approving a funding mechanism to build a rail system or other mass transit system, Hirata said.
A bill at the state Legislature this year would give county officials the authority to increase the state's general excise tax to pay for transit projects.
State and city officials reviewing other transportation studies yesterday repeatedly veered off topic to ask questions of each other and experts about mass-transit plans and financing.
"One of our assumptions is that rail will have to be a backbone of any plan we develop for the future," consultant Richard Kaku told members of the O'ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization's Policy Committee.
Citing previously failed attempts to establish mass transit, Federal Transit Administration officials repeatedly have told city officials they won't consider financing a new system for Honolulu until such a mechanism is in place.
"If we want to move forward, we have to lock in a funding plan," Hirata said. "And we need to do it very quickly."
The city's development of a draft environmental impact statement will be financed with $8 million in federal money and $2 million in local money requested from the City Council, Hirata said.
Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.