Far as we can tell, the media didn’t attend either, having sensed maybe that they’ve heard it all before. There’s no indication Ben Cayetano revealed any details of his bus rapid transit substitute for rail. Since he told Civil Beat he’d unveil his plan in mid-April, our guess is it’ll be in an op-ed commentary in Sunday’s newspaper.
What we do know about last night came from University of Hawaii highway expert Panos Prevedouros, who attended the event and called a morning talk show host today. Professor Prevedouros opposes rail and was soundly defeated in his bid for mayor in 2008 when he vowed to “kill rail in its tracks.”
Rail’s Final Environmental Impact Statement comments in Chapter 2 on that congestion issue, not only at the end of the lanes when traffic would be dumped back to surface roads but also at the entrance to the express lanes. We were eager to hear the highway expert’s response, so we recorded some of the host’s discussion with the professor:
How far mauka would the tunnel run – as far as Queen Street one block mauka from Ala Moana? There’s a stoplight there. Would Alakea return to surface level one short block further mauka at the light-controlled intersection with Merchant, or would it stay underground all the way to King, where there’s another stoplight? And because cars necessarily would have to stop on Alakea for cross traffic at those intersections, what would happen to the cars in the tunnel around to Nimitz? There’d be a backup, wouldn’t there?
Halekauwila intersects with Punchbowl Street a long block diamondhead of where Dr. Prevedouros’ tunnel would depart from Ala Moana Boulevard. There’s a stoplight there and another one a block further east at South Street. Since Halekauwila traffic would stop for those lights, wouldn’t there be a backup onto Nimitz, along with the Alakea backup?
Dr. Prevedouros is throwing around these simple “win-win” solutions as if there were no downsides whatsoever. He expects his audience to accept it at face value because – well, because he’s allegedly an expert in his field.
If their ideas have merit, OMPO and others might just endorse them, but none of the ideas he and Mr. Cayetano have provided so far can duplicate the rail project’s benefits for patrons, including freeing them from traffic congestion completely in their east-west travel, reducing their reliance on every-costlier automobiles, improving their travel times and providing residential and commercial opportunities around rail stations.
There’s nothing magical about rail's goals and what the system will do for Oahu residents. Dr. Prevedouros can suggest all the cut-and-cover tunnels and one-into-four left-turn lanes he wants, but they can’t come close to meeting the transportation requirements of this and future generations throughout the 21st century.
Rail isn’t for everyone, but it will deliver benefits to a far greater number of people than a couple of tunnels in downtown Honolulu ever could.