Just months after lawmakers approved funding sources for rail, there is news of a more ambitious plan from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.
Chad Blair from Civil Beat, talks about a new route proposal that's really an old one.
HART is set to talk about it Friday, but by looking at the agenda, the board is not cuing in the public on it.
Paula Akana: Just months after lawmakers approved funding sources for rail, there is news of a more ambitious plan from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation?
Chad Blair: That's right, Paula. HART's using pretty obscure language to talk about its plans. The agenda says the board is going to ask the City Council's permission to "conduct planning and engineering activities, and acquire the right-of-way to allow the development of the locally preferred alternative." What does that mean, exactly? They're asking for the green light to design an extension to Manoa and Waikiki and buy land along the route. They also plan to talk about this behind closed doors in "executive session."
Paula Akana: That original plan included getting a lot of the UH Manoa traffic off the roads. City council member Ann Kobayashi has several issues with this.
Chad Blair: Yes, there are a number of issues. The cost could be enormous; imagine land costs alone - for an elevated line from Ala Moana to UH and Waikiki. Plus, there's the aesthetics of running what looks like an elevated roadway down Kapiolani Boulevard. What happens to the iconic monkey-pod trees? Are people in those fancy proposed condotels going to want to buy pricey condos adjacent to a train? One the other hand, yes: this could mean a lot less traffic around UH. It could be great for students, faculty, tourists…
Paula Akana: It was pretty contentious with state lawmakers who would not give the mayor all he wanted during the special session. What are they saying now? And what does mayor say about it?
Chad Blair: Well, the mayor didn't comment when we called his office. Meanwhile, it looks like lawmakers have made clear they want greater oversight of HART. The $2.4 billion bailout calls for a major audit and has set aside $1 million to conduct it. Plus, there's a strict system for expending money. Meanwhile, Sylvia Luke, the House Finance Committee chair, basically said to not even think about more money until HART shows it can make it to Ala Moana on time and for $9 billion.
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