Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Governor’s Stated Insistence on Preserving Road Lanes Seemingly Eliminates At-Grade Alternative

The beautiful thing about this age of modern communications we’re in is that years-old news is just a click away. Take this comment by Governor Linda Lingle reported in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in October 2003 about the proposal then to build a bus rapid transit system:

“I won’t support any project that takes existing lanes off the roadway,” the Governor said.

This on-the-record sentiment is pertinent to the current Honolulu rail transit project, which will involve an elevated 20-mile rail system between East Kapolei and Ala Moana Center.

Some rail opponents are saying the Governor should refuse to accept the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement when it’s completed because they allege alternatives such as at-grade transit were not studied.

Aside from the fact that they were thoroughly evaluated (see the Alternatives Analysis and all its accompanying documentation), at-grade transit most certainly does replace roadway lanes. You can’t drop parallel rail tracks into a street without replacing one or more lanes for vehicles unless – and this is a big “unless” – you’re prepared to condemn property to widen the roadway to preserve the same number of lanes.

At-Grade = Condemnation

This inevitable result of building at-grade transit also has been thoroughly evaluated and found unacceptable compared to the Locally Preferred Alternative of an elevated fixed guideway. As planned, the City’s rail project will require the taking of about 40 properties along its 20-mile length. The Phoenix, AZ, at-grade system that began operations last December took nearly 1,000 properties along the same length.

Rail’s opponents never talk about the need to condemn more property to build at-grade transit, of course, and they generally ignore at-grade’s inability to achieve the project’s goals – fast, frequent and reliable transit.

Public opinion clearly supports the City’s elevated plan, and we continue to refer readers to the results of the QMark survey, which asked for responses to this statement:

“The City & County of Honolulu with approval from the voters of Oahu is moving forward with the development of a 20-mile elevated rail transit line that will connect West Oahu with downtown Honolulu and Ala Moana Center."

Sixty percent of the respondents responded with support for that description, and 69 percent said they believe rail will be a good investment.

The poll's results cannot be mentioned too often and must be held up to the Governor as she is asked to accept the FEIS as evidence of the public’s attitudes. The public clearly favors an elevated rail system and, one must assume, now agrees with the City’s information that refutes the uniformly misleading assertions of rail’s opponents.

An elevated system will preserve existing roadways while speeding commuters to their destinations – on time, every time.

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