HONOLULU (KHNL) - The Honolulu City Council says yes to a transit system that will run from Kapolei to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The price: more than 4 billion dollars.
It was a vote decades in the making, and one that comes 15 years after the city's last attempt to approve a transportation system for Oahu.
In 1992 the final tally was 5 to 4 against rail with Rene Mansho casting the deciding vote. Friday's vote passed by a 7 to 2 margin. Some call it a necesary system for the city.
Given the projected growth for West Oahu, supporters of the project say traffic congestion will only get worse in the years to come. They also say, rail will promote economic development on the west side of the island.
"I believe we need to invest in this, I've said it before. If we are going to truly designate west Oahu as being the growth area of our island, we need to be willling to dedicate the money and the infrastructure tha's needed for that growth" said Councilmember Todd Apo.
But critics say the estimated 4 billion dollar price tag is simply too high. And they are worried the city wont be able to afford it in the long run. They urge the council to consider less expensive alternatives like managed freeway lanes.
"Unless Santa Claus is going to be giving us a heck of a lot more financial resources than we have now, I don't believe moving forward on this system is prudent. My concern has been and continues to be that the cost is too much" said Councilmember Charles Djou.
Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann has been a long time supporter of rail transit. For him, a yes vote on rail was at the top of the Christmas wish list.
"We're very pleased. This is a great Christmas present, but we still have much more work to do" said Hannemann.
the plan approved by the council allows the city to consider two routes.
One running directly into Honolulu from Kapolei, the other passing trough undeveloped parts of Ewa and back up north-south heading roads.