Elevated roadway proposal modified
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
One of the transit options now being considered for Honolulu includes a reversible, two-lane elevated roadway built atop Kamehameha Highway between the H-1/H-2 merge and Iwilei with an access point near Aloha Stadium.
Consultants had been considering the elevated road option, but looking at one lane in each direction, said Mark Scheibe, project manager for consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff.
This new option involves making the two-lane roadway townbound for morning rush hour and 'ewa-bound for the afternoon commute, Scheibe said yesterday.
The idea is based on community feedback from meetings held in September, Scheibe said.
"It definitely appears to be an alternative worth considering," he said.
The special new lanes initially would serve buses and vehicles with more than one occupant. Scheibe said drivers traveling alone could be allowed on the elevated lanes if they paid a toll.
Parsons Brinckerhoff is in the midst of researching technologies, costs, financing, ridership, traffic and environmental impact of a mass transit system for Honolulu.
Four alternatives are being considered:
The goal is to present a mass transit alternative to the City Council for action in November. City officials hope to begin construction by 2009, have the first leg of a system operational by 2012 and finish the project by 2015.
Cost estimates have ranged as high as $2.8 billion.
Scheibe said there was "quite a bit" of community interest in the elevated roadway, which would begin near Leeward Community College and end at Pacific Street in Iwilei.
There would be a midpoint near Aloha Stadium where commuters could get on and off the roadway, he said.
"If you were coming from 'Aiea, for instance, you could get on," Scheibe said.
That option would build a traffic bridge on top of the existing road.
"We're looking at having columns in the middle of Kamehameha Highway," he said.
Longtime rail critic Cliff Slater was pleased to see the city consultant seriously considering the elevated lane alternative.
"We can fund it out of toll revenues," said Slater, who is opposed to increasing the general excise tax to pay for a transit system.
In Tampa, Fla., a transit authority is nearing completion of a similar concept — a three-lane reversible roadway built on the median of a freeway. Marty Stone, of the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, was in Honolulu yesterday talking about how the project is coming together.
Stone spoke in Waikiki at a panel discussion put together by the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance titled "Intelligent Transportation Systems and Political Transportation Priorities."
Stone said the elevated roadway in Tampa cost $300 million, financed by revenue bonds that will be repaid with revenue from user tolls. He said light rail wouldn't have worked for the community but something had to be done.
"We were totally congested," he said.
The forum brought together experts with different points of view from across the country.
Honolulu City Council Transportation Chairman Todd Apo said there is no single simple answer for easing traffic congestion in every city. "There's pros and cons to everything," he said.
But Apo wants to learn more about the elevated roadway and see how it would deal with existing overpasses and merging in and out of local traffic.
"I'll be interested to see how it would work," he said.
Kansas City, Mo., Councilwoman Saundra McFadden-Weaver said her city studied light rail and expanded buses before determining that better buses made more economic sense.
She said voters helped determine bus over light rail. "We put it on the ballot," she said.
But some experts backed rail. Jim Charlier, a Boulder, Colo., consultant with 30 years of experience in transportation planning, said rail makes sense for a lot of cities.
Charlier acknowledged that transit can be expensive. But he said, "Postponing a major infrastructure investment at this point in our history could be a spectacularly bad decision because in 10 years, you simply could be unable to build" because of rising costs.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at email@example.com.