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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Governor assails transit route

By Dennis Camire
Advertiser Washington Bureau

Gov. Linda Lingle

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KEY VOTE TODAY

The City Council will hold a special public meeting at noon today to vote on the "minimum operable segment" of a proposed mass-transit system for O'ahu.

The segment would become the first phase of a system that could ultimately stretch from West Kapolei to Manoa.

A segment tentatively approved last week would run from the planned University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu campus to Ala Moana Center, via Salt Lake Boulevard. Other routes under consideration would link the system to Honolulu International Airport.

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WASHINGTON Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday that a City Council vote scheduled for today on the path of Honolulu's proposed multibillion-dollar transit system that leaves out a stop at Honolulu International Airport is a "serious" mistake.

"It is a political choice," said Lingle, who is attending a National Governors Association meeting in Washington. "It's not the best choice."

Lingle, who met with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters on Sunday to talk about the transit system and highways, also said she did not believe ground would be broken for the transit system by 2009 as Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann has said.

"Based on my discussions, there is no possible way that will occur," she said. " ... and they (federal transportation officials) don't feel it is likely to occur."

The council last week tentatively adopted a route that would take the proposed transit through the Salt Lake area, but leave out the airport.

Hannemann backed a route that would have gone through the airport and skipped Salt Lake. But Councilman Romy Cachola persisted in pushing for the route through Salt Lake, which he represents.

Without Cachola's support, there were not enough votes to approve moving ahead with the rail system at all. The first phase of the transit system is expected to cost $3.54 billion.

Lingle said she understands that a person representing a district sometimes "needs to make a certain decision in order to get that vote" but shouldn't do something that is not right.

"In my opinion, it's not right to bypass the airport if you're going to have a transit system," she said. "This calls for a different kind of decision-making and that is to do for the greater good rather than your individual district."

Lingle said she respected Cachola and what he is trying to do for his district.

"But I believe if he looks at this in an objective fashion, he would have to agree that it's not in the best interest of this project to bypass the airport," she said.

Last week's council vote is not final. The council is expected to vote on the issue again today at a special meeting at Honolulu Hale.

Contact Dennis Camire at dcamire@gns.gannett.com.

Reach Dennis Camire at dcamire@gns.gannett.com.