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Honolulu City Council: Rail Beyond Ala Moana?

Wayne Yoshioka

The 9.5 billion dollar Honolulu Rail Transit Project is awaiting award of a contract to complete the line to Ala Moana Center. But, as HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, City lawmakers are looking beyond Ala Moana.

The contract award to build the 4.3-mile guideway from Middle Street to Ala Moana Center is more than a year away.   But, the Honolulu City Council is considering a transit oriented development plan for Ala Moana and want to know if the future unfunded extension to U-H Manoa is being factored in.  Councilmember Ikaika Anderson is chair of the Planning Committee.

“I would hate to reach Ala Moana Center and have a future Council and a future Mayor decide to pivot to UH Manoa and because of the design of the Ala Moana station and/or what crops up around that area, the Ala Moana station being unusable to reach UH Manoa, and then, having to construct an entirely different station and different line, which is gonna make everybody look like a bunch of Lolos.”

Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, a longtime critic of the rail project, says the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation – HART -- has not provided her with an update.

“The plan that was touted and shown for many years was the rail would go down Kona Street.  And, I believe at the last hearing on this Ala Moana TOD, we were told that it would go down Kapi’olani from the Ala Moana station.  So that’s why I want to keep wanting to see the drawings.”

The current TOD plan, as drafted, includes a 400 foot building height limit.  But, some councilmembers are willing to consider hotel components in exchange for affordable housing.  TOD Administrator, Harrison Rue, says preservation of the future rail corridor is a priority.

“We did recognize that a likely stop for the next phase might be the Convention Center and so the plan does recommend the same height around the Convention Center at the same 400 foot level, pending HART’s study it’s likely for a future station.”

Meanwhile, Committee Chair Anderson will be sending a letter to HART to request a formal plan.

“The design of the Ala Moana station should not preclude future councils and future administrations to reach U-H Manoa.”

The Council’s Planning Committee is scheduled to meet January 23rd.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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