Oahu Mass Transit: Elevated Freeways Instead of Rail?

Martin Stone
Martin Stone

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Next week Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is expected to announce what kind of mass transit project he wants the city to build. Hannemann has said he would prefer to build a rail system. But a different kind of project is also being considered: Elevated freeway lanes.

An elevated expressway speeds drivers along in Tampa Florida. Designers say it has cut commute times by thirty minutes, and could do the same on Oahu.

"By diverting traffic on to these lanes, you improve traffic on roads or you will improve traffic on roads like H-1," traffic engineer Martin Stone said.

One of the project engineers says he's studied Oahu's traffic problem. He says Honolulu doesn't have enough development between downtown and Kapolei to support a rail system.

"The density of development needs to be along the fixed rail route and specifically out in the area the rail service is supposed to be serving."

Tampa's taxpayers didn't pay for the project, but its drivers are covering the costs of construction.

"Essentially, they are paid by the tolls users pay for the system."

Portions of the Tampa Expressway collapsed during construction. The accident added 120 million dollars to the cost of the elevated lanes.

"We had a number of safeguards built into the process and one of those safeguards identified the problem, but we had to go in and fix it."

Project managers blamed the collapse on an engineering mistake by a contractor.

"Florida's soil conditions are much worse than Honolulu's. We have no bedrock in Florida."

Whether an elevated freeway is in Oahu's future remains to be seen. The mayor's recommendation is expected to be delivered to the city council on November 1st.