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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 4, 2010

As planned, rail will kill Waipahu

By Kioni Dudley

Rail, as planned, does almost nothing to solve existing traffic problems on the west side of O'ahu.

The first station is in a wide-open area planned for a huge shopping center and hotel. It will have 900 parking stalls for rail commuters.

The second station is also in open fields where the University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu campus will rise. Just blocks from the freeway, it has the potential to draw thousands of riders, but it will have only 1,000 park-and-ride stalls. The 142,000 town-bound drivers on the freeway during rush hour won't even notice the difference.

The third stop is in the middle of 1,500 acres of productive farmland, land that clearly must be saved for our future survival. This station would serve only the Ho'opili development.

The fourth stop finally reaches civilization. Just a block inside of Waipahu from Fort Weaver Road, it is situated perfectly to take thousands of cars off the road from 'Ewa, 'Ewa Beach, Village Park and Royal Kunia, saving them another 90 minutes of travel into the city. But this station does not have even one stall for parking.

Let's get it straight, then. This rail is not being built to solve current traffic problems. It actually is not even for us. It is being built to benefit developers. The traffic problems it will solve are future problems, yet to be caused by people yet to move into homes yet to be built.

We voted for rail. We are paying for it every time we make a purchase. And we have been misled.

The rail, as planned, will destroy Waipahu.

Overhead stations the size of floating football fields will dominate each end of town. Rain and red dirt will discolor the massive elevated concrete spans and supporting columns. Graffiti will turn it all into a monstrous eyesore, condemning Waipahu to perpetual third-class status.

Through the years of construction, traffic in Waipahu will be a nightmare. Only one lane in each direction of Farrington Highway will be open during rush hour. Already choked with afternoon traffic, Waipahu will have major, debilitating traffic jams. Pearl City and 'Aiea will experience much of the same.

None of this has to happen. Use of the old Oahu Railway and Land right-of-way can solve everything. If the rail follows the OR&L route, it can run at surface level at least to the stadium, still using the "steel wheels on steel rails" that we voted for, but using light rail. The right-of-way runs along the water providing a beautiful ride; encounters only a few crossroads in the 12 miles from Kapolei to the stadium; is already cleared of iwi; and is owned by the government.

If the rail began at UH-West O'ahu, and headed makai to the old OR&L line, it could serve H-1 and Kapolei just as well. The OR&L line then runs just below 'Ewa. A park-and-ride at Fort Weaver Road would bring rail service to 'Ewa and 'Ewa Beach. Next stop, Depot Road in Waipahu, then up behind Leeward Community College.

Through Pearl City, it would run just a block or so below the current route, with stops at Pearl Kai, the stadium, and entrances to Pearl Harbor. The OR&L route serves every shopping area, recreation area, and employment center on the west side.

Why was the OR&L route never seriously considered? Because it didn't run through the Ho'opili development. Plans for Ho'opili, however, recently were dealt a potentially fatal setback by the Land Use Commission.

The mayor recently announced that completing rail's final environmental impact statement will take until year's end. There is time now for changes. Write to the mayor (mayor@honolulu.gov) and ask him to support light rail, at grade, using the OR&L right of way from Kapolei to the stadium.

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