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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 5:57 p.m., Friday, December 22, 2006

Council gives final OK to transit system

Advertiser Staff


Mayor Mufi Hannemann hugs Councilmember Rod Tam before a press conference that followed the City Council's vote to build a transit system stretching from Kapolei to the University of Hawai'i-Manoa.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The City Council today gave final approval to a commitment to build a transit system from Kapolei through downtown Honolulu to the University of Hawaii-Manoa that will cost at least $4.6 billion.

The decision came in the afternoon after a day of political jockeying and back-and-forth.

In the end, council members voted 7-2 the way they had when they approved increasing the excise tax on O'ahu by a half-percentage point to help pay for the system.

Those voting in favor were City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, Todd Apo, Ann Kobayashi, Romy Cachola, Nestor Garcia, Gary Okino and Rod Tam.

Opposed were East Honolulu Councilman Charles Djou and Windward Councilwoman Barbara Marshall.

"I really want to say thank you to the public," Kobayashi said. "It's a very difficult issue because there is no clear majority."

Kobayashi's earlier move to add a change in the route in the Kapolei side at today's hearing had prompted a decision to postpone the final vote to next week.

But by 3:30 p.m. the council had heard from many of 130 people who signed up to testify and they decided to vote and leave in variations in the route in two areas: the Kapolei and Salt Lake/airport areas.

Many of those who testified in favor of transit came from the West O'ahu area that Apo represents and argued for the "green line" that goes through the Kalaeloa area, which they said better serves their community.

Apo said the options give city planners a choice: "They have the ability to do both."

Councilman Gary Okino, a longtime supporter of transit, said he was happy and relieved to be finally voting on the start to transit after decades of debate.

He said he studied this issue as a career city planner since the 1970s when "it was clear that this was THE one answer."

Djou said he doesn't think the traffic congestion will be eased enough by the plan and that it will cost far too much.

"The average family is paying too much in taxes as it is," Djou said. "I hope Santa Claus is coming to Honolulu Hale on Monday with a lot of money."

City Councilwoman Marshall said she couldn't support the system as planned.

"I cannot subject our constitutents to a major decision with too little information," she said.