State to study feasibility of Oahu ferry service

State to study feasibility of Oahu ferry service

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is eyeing an intra-island ferry service that could help Leeward Oahu drivers get out of gridlock.

The state-owned ferry would transport passengers and their vehicles between West Oahu and Honolulu.

Officials also plan to study the feasibility of an inter-island ferry service, much like the ill-fated Hawaii Superferry.

"If it is just a passengers-only vessel, that's going to be less ideal," state Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara said.

"We want to look forward and be able to find those new ways to relieve congestion and traffic. However, we don't want to do that if it's going to impact the environment."

The state hopes to send out a request for a $550,000 ferry study within three to six months. Most of the money comes from federal sources.

Sakahara said even if a feasibility study sinks the idea of a statewide ferry, a scaled-down system running between Kalaeloa and Honolulu Harbor and another operating off Maui might still remain options.

The state would conduct an environmental impact study before launching a ferry operation.

State Rep. Andria Tupola, whose district includes Nanakuli, believes her constituents would ride an Oahu ferry.

"A lot of people want to see any solution to happen sooner rather than later to get them out of traffic," she said.

The city tried running a passenger ferry from Kalaeloa to downtown in 2007. But the ferry didn't accommodate cars, and few people got on board.

Transportation expert Panos Prevedouros said an intra-island ferry could succeed if it significantly cuts down on commute times.

"It's just that the operations need to be ultra quick to provide a competitive time to downtown," he said.

He thinks a viable intra-island ferry would need to be able to carry about 500 passengers and 200 cars. The vessel could be slightly smaller than the Hawaii Superferry, which was scuttled in 2009 because of legal issues.

Sakahara said the feasibility study will factor in passenger fares and operational costs.

"All of that will be considered in addition to the routes, the times, the ports, the drop off, the pick up, schedules," he said.

While the state would own and maintain the vessels, an outside party would handle operations.

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