By Leland Kim
HONOLULU (KHNL) -- The City and County of Honolulu's rail plan makes a pit stop at one of the busiest places on Oahu. The 20-mile route from East Kapolei all the way down to Ala Moana Center would now extend its service to Honolulu International Airport. That's something many people said they wanted all along.
The extension would begin at Middle Street and go to the airport. It has a price tag of $350 million, but the mayor says it's a necessary stop that would be used by those who live here and those who visit Oahu.
Seeing a light rail system at the airport could be as common as seeing planes, if Mayor Mufi Hannemann has his way.
"It's a no brainer when you consider 7,000 people are employed at the airport," said Hannemann. "It's a no brainer when 2,500 people ride the bus daily. It's a no brainer when you consider 58,000 people either arrive or depart from the airport daily."
Friday morning, Hannemann announced plans to expand the mass transit route to include the airport.
The new stop will start at Kamehameha Highway and Middle Street, and run 2.1 miles to the airport stopping at the current lei stand location.
"It would make sense," said Morgan Hill, a Wailua Bay resident. "I think it's pretty obvious that most people would want to go to the airport to get in and out especially with traffic in the morning hours and late afternoon hours. It makes perfect sense to me."
Hill is picking up graduation lei today. If the mayor's plan succeeds, that's all he may end up picking up at the airport.
"It just seems to me it's obvious it would alleviate traffic all around all the major arteries like Middle Street merge, H-1/H-2 merge, all the way out to the west side," said Hill. "I can't see any down side to it personally."
But critics say light rail is too expensive and not practical for Honolulu. The mayor says time is running out.
"The easiest thing to say is, 'No, no, no, no. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Moku, moku, moku. Complain, complain, complain," said Hannemann. "Come up with an alternative. If you got a better alternative that's not going to cost much money, I want to hear it."
The cost for the airport stop is about $350 million.
More money, and more debate in the mass transit saga.
Funding has not been secured for this addition, but the mayor says there's still time, and he's hoping the money comes from the state's airport fund or a percentage of the general excise tax.