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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 21, 2006

On eve of transit vote, route, mode still 'fluid'

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

With a historic City Council vote on transit just one day away, the choice of a mode and route are still "fluid," and subject to intense lobbying, elected officials said yesterday.

The council's Transportation and Planning Committee last week approved a route that starts in West Kapolei and proceeds on a direct route toward urban Honolulu to the University of Hawai'i-Manoa and includes the possibility of a spur to Waikiki.

However, Mayor Mufi Hannemann yesterday said he supports a proposed floor-draft amendment to the transit bill that restores the city's original recommended route through Kalaeloa and along the North-South Road in the 'Ewa area before continuing toward town.

"The council needs to pick the route that will best serve the needs and interests of the community," Hannemann said. "That's clearly the route we've recommended through Kalaeloa and the North-South Road. I haven't heard anybody articulate why the other route would be better."

Hannemann said he hopes community members will turn out in force at tomorrow's council meeting to support the longer route, which he said has much more potential for higher ridership, economic development and relief for residents of the traffic-clogged 'Ewa-plain area.

"The bill is very fluid at this 11th hour," he said. "There's still hope that the majority of the council will recognize the importance of this decision that will put us on the path to improve and enhance our live for decades to come."

Supporters of the shorter route said it would be cheaper and still allow for spurs to be built to the undeveloped areas as funds become available in the future.

"Clearly a lot of constituents have been jumping into the discussion in the last few days," said Councilman Todd Apo, who has authored the amendment to restore the Kalaeloa segment of the transit route. "The Kalaeloa route is years ahead of the other one. It's not even close, and that's why I'm going to push for it right up until the final vote."

Despite his lobbying for the longer route, Hannemann said a council decision going the other way would not be fatal to transit, provided that any construction begins in West O'ahu and moves toward town, not the other way around. He said he thinks an initial segment of the rail line might be 6 to 10 miles long and open for use by 2012.

"Failure would be a vote in which the council does not do anything," Hannemann said.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.