Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Romy Cachola’s Scoops on the Rail

Councilmember Romy Cachola has provided a useful summary of findings after meeting with the Federal Transit Administration on March 9, 2010 along with Councilpersons Apo, Anderson and Kobayashi.

The partial summary of Cachola's findings from this fact finding mission in Washington, DC are copied below and his entire report is available at the city's docushare (see link at bottom.) Of course Cachola’s report, without saying it, makes a case for rerouting the rail route through Salt Lake Boulevard. Unfortunately, this is one of many omissions in the Draft EIS, and several months of study are needed to assess those impacts, plus time for public review and comment.

Rather foolishly the FTA approved that the City enter Preliminary Engineering, so now we are spending money engineering a rail route that is impractical. This is but a small piece of evidence why rail proposals are “gravy trains” for architects, planners and engineers … the more the mistakes, the more the taxpayer financed fees to professionals to fix those mistakes.

Note that these significant objections do not even address the multitude of problems between the airport and Waikiki (Dillingham Boulevard, Chinatown, downtown, Ala Moana.)

My conclusion has been that even if Hannemann serves his entire term as mayor, there will still be no rail on the ground by 2012, or ever, if a recent survey by Hawaii News Now is to be believed.

Cachola's summary points:

  • The FTA won’t give special treatment to any jurisdiction that applies for federal funds for transit. Everyone will be treated the same way. Thus, the airport route, until resolved, is unlikely to receive special treatment as hoped for by the administration.
  • The governor has every right to review the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) based not only on federal guidelines but also state laws governing environmental review. The FTA stressed to council members that without the governor’s approval, the project cannot proceed.
  • A main sticking point on the Final EIS is that the transit alignment is encroaching too close to the runway protection zone. FTA officials also stressed that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will not sign off on the Final EIS until the airport issue is resolved.
  • To resolve the encroachment on the runway protection zone, the FTA stated the following alternatives:
1. Move the alignment to the mauka side of the viaduct.
2. Move the alignment onto the median of the viaduct.
3. Extend the affected runway(s) to the opposite direction (makai) so that it would no longer encroach on the runway protection zone.
  • Based on the FTA’s statements, the following may need to be done:
-- Amending the alignment may require a supplemental EIS to determine the impacts and other considerations.
-- Since Honolulu International Airport is under the state’s control, any extension of the runway needs state approval. The state may not agree to any extension until an EIS is completed and approved by HDOT. Without the State’s approval, the City will be forced to look at other alternatives.

Link to Romy Cachola’s report