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Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced today that planners for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project have designed a way to include the Honolulu International Airport in the mass transit system route at a more affordable price that would enable construction to begin sooner. The Mayor had directed planners to study the airport possibilities in response to widespread concern about the need for transit to serve the airport. He emphasized that the City must still secure funding for the airport spur’s construction.


A trip from the airport to Ala Moana Center would take only 17 minutes on the planned spur, and trains would depart every 15 minutes. Passengers coming from West Oahu would transfer at the Middle Street Station to get to the airport.


Mayor Hannemann noted that nearly 7000 people work at the airport, and come from many places along the main transit route from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, via Salt Lake Boulevard.


“These workers would definitely benefit from being able to take the train to and from work, and that’s a lot of cars to get off the road and a lot of parking spaces to make available at the airport,” Mayor Hannemann said.


Many people working at the airport also take TheBus – which records 2,500 trips to and from the airport daily. These riders would definitely benefit from being able to catch the train, he added. And, in terms of airport patrons, there are 58,000 arrivals and departures daily, with that figure expected to nearly double by 2030.


“When you see those kinds of figures, you can understand why people continue to ask for an airport connection and question the Honolulu City Council’s decision in late 2006 to route the fixed guideway system through Salt Lake rather than the Honolulu International Airport,” Mayor Hannemann said. “While my administration proposed the airport alignment because of its superior performance, we did go along with the Salt Lake route because it met federal requirements for ridership and cost and, perhaps more importantly, because this compromise kept the project alive and moving forward.”


Mayor Hannemann stressed that he has always said that the system would go to the airport if and when funding became available.


“We’ve been working extremely hard to find a feasible way to get to the airport, and I believe we’ve found it,” he said.


The City intends to break ground on the project next year. As previously announced, a key environmental study will also examine route extensions to West Kapolei, Waikiki and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


Today’s announcement followed news earlier this month that a transit station will be built very near the new University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus, now that state officials have voiced strong support for the City’s plans there. The station will be built along North-South Road, about two blocks east of the campus and just south of a state-owned parcel that had been an obstacle.


“I’ve always said I want the route to go from campus to campus, and that continues to be our plan and our goal,” Mayor Hannemann said.


Airport Spur Details


The re-designed airport spur goes from the Middle Street transit station to the Honolulu Airport.  The route does not go all the way to Pearl Harbor. Cost for the spur as currently designed is approximately $350 million, compared to $700 million to construct the entire segment. The spur is being planned to accommodate future expansion to Pearl Harbor if and when additional funding becomes available.


Funding Sources


Potential revenue sources for the airport extension include the 10% the State of Hawaii currently withholds for collecting the general excise tax (GET) transit surcharge or a portion of the State Department of Transportation’s Airport fund, which, as of last year, includes $480 million cash in unrestricted assets. Mayor Hannemann emphasized that the airport extension will be built only if the City secures additional funding. The airport spur would be built as an addition to the current alignment through Salt Lake.


Ala Moana Center Modifications


In order to handle the airport passengers to Ala Moana, the City will work with Ala Moana Center to devise a circulator bus system to easily transport passengers with luggage to and from Waikiki. As TheBus does not allow riders with luggage, this also provides a potential opportunity for private tour bus and trolley operators and taxi cabs.


The Mayor also disclosed today that the Ala Moana transit station will likely be modified and located at a lower level.


            “Since there are no funds right now to extend the line beyond Ala Moana Center, we do not need to go over the Center’s parking structure,” Mayor Hannemann explained. “If and when funding becomes available, we will build the extension without demolishing the guideway or the lower station. Locating the station at 40 rather than 80 feet right now will make ground connections more convenient and reduce the visual impact of the station.”


For more information on the transit project visit:



Contact: Bill Brennan, 527-6928

Friday, May 23, 2008

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