Monday, March 8, 2010

Oahu Railway and Land (OR&L)

The Oahu Railway and Land (OR&L) provides a nearly continuous 40 ft. wide corridor for rail transportation between Nanakuli and the west side of the Honolulu International Airport (HIA). Dr. Kioni Dudley of Makakilo, among others on Oahu have been questioning why such an obvious path for rail was largely ignored from any serious analysis and environmental assessment.

Thanks to the Star Bulletin some of the points and counterpoints are beginning to emerge.

Even if the counterpoints are significant, the City did fail to take a careful look at OR&L. As member of the 2006 Transit Advisory Task Force that examined the city's Alternatives Analysis, I can attest that OR&L was not the subject of analysis.

As one can see in the map below, the rail path of OR&L is extensive and it reaches to within a few miles of downtown. It provides a platform for light rail development. Light rail service can occur at a small fraction of the proposed fully elevated multibillion dollar system, with similar or better results in ridership. Its speed may be lower compared to a fully elevated system but it can be designed with fewer stations and larger parking lots.

Between the east end of HIA and downtown, the new passenger OR&L can operate on the sides of the Nimitz Viaduct which is a proposed project for a narrow reversible elevated highway connecting H-1 Fwy. at Keehi Interchange to downtown. This project passed environmental reviews in the late 1990s and was mothballed by Governor Lingle at the beginning of her first term. However, the Nimitz Viaduct re-emerged in 2008 as a desirable project in the Highway Modernization Program of the state DOT.