HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Most Oahu residents want the see the entire 20-mile rail system built all the way to Ala Moana Center. But even more people oppose raising property taxes to pay for the construction.
The Hawaii News Now-Star-Advertiser Hawaii Poll found that 62 percent favor building the entire system while only 10 percent think the project should stop at Middle Street.
"No, that's not a good idea. If we're going to start something we should finish it and finish it the right way," Aiea resident Mark Johnasen said of the Middle Street plan.
Added Carleton Yanaga of Mililani: "I think we spent enough money. And just to stop it now is going to be that much waste. And the stops like that, how many people are going to just ride it only to Middle Street."
The Middle Street option emerged earlier this year due to soaring construction costs. Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the plan would buy the city time to seek more funding from the federal government or other sources for the remaining five miles. But that proposal appears to be hurting Caldwell politically, according to experts.
Over the past 18 months, his approval rating has dropped 11 percentage points to 53 percent and he now trails former City Councilman Charles Djou in polls for the mayor's race.
"It's because of rail because now they are afraid he has become a flip-flopper about where he actually envisions rail going," said Hawaii News Now political analyst Colin Moore.
But Caldwell defended his position, saying Middle Street is just a temporary stop until the city can seek additional revenue sources.
"I'm committed to building the full 20 miles, 21 stations all the way to Ala Moana Center," Caldwell said during a mayoral forum sponsored by the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association on Thursday. "I didn't say stop construction. We won't even be into Middle Street until probably 2020. But I need the time to put together a funding plan for the Federal Transit Administration."
That funding plan isn't likely to include increasing property taxes. The Hawaii poll found that an overwhelming 81 percent said no to increasing property taxes for rail.
"No property taxes. I would be in favor of continuing the increase in the excise tax but property tax no," said Mililani resident Tom Hoffman.
Former Mayor Peter Carlisle is among the minority. He thinks the city should cut city programs or increasing property taxes to pay for rail.
"It could be a combination of both. It could be one the other or both," he said.