Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Anti-Rail Charter Amendment Fails 1st Reading; Unmistakable Sign of City Council’s Rail Support

The Honolulu City Council today went down the road less traveled – the one that leads to defeat of a resolution on First Reading.

Summarily killing off a fellow Council member’s initiative at its first hearing is unusual and has occurred only a couple times in the past dozen years or so, according to veteran Council observers. Measures almost always receive “courtesy” support on the First Reading vote that sends bills and resolutions to the subject matter committee.

Not today. Council Member Tom Berg’s amendment to the City Charter would have prohibited the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation “from developing, operating, maintaining, and expanding a fixed guideway system that includes ‘steel wheel on steel rail’ technology.”

The key phrase is “steel wheel on steel rail.” That’s the very same technology contained in the 2008 Charter amendment that Oahu voters approved. Mr. Berg’s amendment would have stricken that technology from HART’s work product. I.E., HART would have still been authorized to build and operate a fixed guideway – just not a steel one.

Civil Beat’s brief story this afternoon (not later expanded, far as we can tell; the Star-Bulletin has a long one, but it requires a subscription) reports that only one member among the nine-member Council joined Mr. Berg in supporting his resolution. Passage would have required six votes.

Chair Ernie Martin and Vice Chair Ikaika Anderson both raised the alarm, writes CB, that the Federal Transit Administration would have been highly displeased with such a dramatic reversal of Council policy and might have even demanded the return of federal money already received by the city.

You can learn quite a bit about Mr. Berg’s rail technology views from a Hawaii Reporter video interview that was posted just yesterday at YouTube. We’ve added a link to that video at our “aggregation site” with the firm belief that the more Oahu residents hear from rail opponents, the better Honolulu’s rail project looks.

When you view the video, be alert for statements by the guest and the program’s host (Malia Zimmerman, above, with Mr. Berg) that don’t seem to reflect what you’ve heard elsewhere about the project. Fact checking can be accomplished easily by visiting the project’s website, where you’ll find the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the Alternatives Analysis and much more information.

We hope you'll also use our "aggregation site" to find posts on why suggestions made during the program – for at-grade transit, tunnels, buses or other options to elevated rail – would not provide cost-effective fast, frequent, reliable and safe congestion-free transportation through our city.

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