We’ll focus on the numerous issues discussed – including at-grade vs elevated safety – over the next few days and start with an exchange on process and whether the AIA’s assertion that a change of technology from “heavy” to “light rail” could be accomplished with minimum delay. We’ve transcribed the telecast and have attempted to quote everyone accurately, while taking some liberties to paraphrase when possible without disturbing the conversation’s thrust.
Boylan: (turning to former OEQC director Gill). “As a man who knows the EIS function, is it too late? Would it be four more years if we went back….?”
Gill: “Well, through the EIS process you would probably have to submit an entirely new document. It certainly could take years, but the document itself is just one thing. The laws leading up to a funding mechanism, the decisions that would have to be taken on the City Council, it would take years.”
Gill: “I’m sorry, Peter, I don’t think so. It’s not discussed in that document. You can’t just slip it in between the draft and the final. I’m sorry, that would not be allowed. The federal government would not allow it. The state would not allow it.”
Vincent: “But we’re not talking about the change to going at-grade. What we’re talking about is going from a heavy rail system to light rail, and that technology change is very minor and does not require revisions to the EIS. Therefore, that change could be made, and then, if portions were to go at-grade, there would be ample time to study those and amend the EIS.”
Caldwell: “So are you no longer supporting an at-grade system? I just want to get that clear. You were at one point.”
Vincent: “Portions of it, but we think it could start elevated with the change to light rail, which would allow more flexibility with no delay. Jobs could start now. There’d be more local jobs.”
Caldwell: “There would be delay, Peter. You admit it yourself.”
Caldwell: “(An at-grade train) can go no faster than the fastest car, and during rush hour, a car goes 14 miles an hour and a bus 7, and you can’t have (a train) going faster unless it’s grade-separated.”
Summarizing: Gill, Okino and Caldwell effectively refuted Vincent’s attempts to minimize the delay of switching to a different technology, and we’re likely to see more views to contradict the AIA when the City Council delegation travels to Washington to meet with federal officials.
Vincent’s display of the photograph showing a portion of agriculture land on the ewa plain was confusing. If that’s where the AIA believes the system could be elevated (with the in-town section at-grade), why would he show the photo and imply light rail (code words for at-grade rail) could travel through this area as quickly as elevated rail?
Historic Hawaii Foundation’s Faulkner was not engaged in this portion of the debate, and we’ll report her comments later.