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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Airport rail shift will delay project

By Romy Cachola

In the April 9 edition of The Honolulu Advertiser, Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced that the city will adjust the rail transit route by moving it mauka about 300 feet from Aolele Street beginning approximately 2,000 feet ewa of Lagoon Drive.

The mayor said that "moving the runways at the airport would be too expensive for the city." When asked at the April 8 City Council meeting about how much moving the runways and other mitigation measures would cost, Department of Transportation Services director Wayne Yoshioka said he did not know.

A letter by state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka to the Federal Transit Administration dated Nov. 3, 2009, proves that the city agreed with the state to complete the following:

• Perform a detailed engineering analysis to identify the impacts of relocating the runway.

• Determine the mitigation measures required for the runway relocation.

• Prepare environmental documentation.

• Seek air carrier input.

• Mitigate other project-related obstructions.

• Fund the runway relocations or alternatives proposed by the city.

Extending the runway may be the best solution to buffer zone encroachment because it is less onerous than acquiring properties and displacing existing businesses.

But rather than follow through on these measures, the city unexpectedly decided to shift the alignment, claiming that moving the runways would be cost prohibitive.

The mayor is not being up front with the council or the public. The reason for the shift is not about cost but a delay in Federal Aviation Administration, FTA and state approval on the final environmental impact statement.

This delay has upset the mayor's plans to run for governor. If he resigns to run within the next few weeks or months, then the reasons behind the alignment shift and his political intentions will be clear.

Now that the administration intends to fast-track the project, I expect it to oppose any and all requests for the following:

• Conducting a supplemental EIS.

• Coming before the council for its approval.

• Holding a public hearing to allow neighborhood board members and affected businesses, some that stand to lose their properties, to comment on the proposed alignment shift.

To give you an idea of how the administration operates, when I chaired the Transportation Committee, I was pressured to fast-track the selection of the locally preferred alternative.

I refused and instead held several outreach community meetings that allowed taxpayers to weigh in. In hindsight, allowing the public to speak their mind was the correct thing to do for the sake of transparency.

Again, for the sake of transparency, the prudent thing is for the city to do all of the above before the adjustment to the route is finalized.

I agree that rail is vital for O'ahu but fast-tracking a project of this magnitude without community input is unwise.

I must remind the mayor of his statements at a recent campaign rally that the city budget and rail project are stopping him from entering the race right now.

Here are his exact words: "I still need to do those things, you see, unlike others who quit their jobs and say they want to be your governor. That's not right."

I sincerely hope that the mayor will not jeopardize Hawai'i's most costly public works project by running for governor.

He should remain for the duration of his term because it is crucial for him to shepherd the rail project through this important period.