Ensure 'Ewa project is an asset, not a drain
A mammoth planned development envisioned in 'Ewa presents both a challenge and an opportunity for Hawai'i.
The opportunity lies in letting current residents help forge the plan so that the project becomes an asset — providing much-needed housing and well-paying jobs — rather than a drain on public resources, networks and utilities.
The challenge remains: We must see that these systems are in place before the houses start going up, further taxing water supplies, sewer facilities and our patience as more cars inevitably join freeway traffic.
The Schuler Division of D.R. Horton Inc. is just at the start of mapping out what could be up to 15,000 homes, as well as schools, parks and commercial development on 1,600 acres. And as company officials have said, this gives them the chance to plan the project with an eye toward mass transportation.
If rail transit wins final approval — or even if it's aced out by other transit options — it's important to have a project this large mesh neatly with major transportation arteries. And that includes access to potential ferry services at the harbor as well as an outlet to conventional freeway transit that avoids Fort Weaver Road. There's one artery that's already clogged to a nearly lethal degree.
Sewer systems must include redundancy so that failures don't produce an environmental catastrophe. The capacity of the water aquifer must be calculated conservatively, and water-conservation schemes must be employed in common-area landscaping and other applications.
City and state officials must give careful consideration to the mix of housing and commercial development. Supporting employment centers and other important hubs — such as the long-awaited West O'ahu university campus — is essential to the goal of a viable second city at Kapolei.
Making Kapolei self-sustaining, rather than another satellite of downtown Honolulu, should be the aim of developer and government alike.