City council plans to reroute rail to airport - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

City council plans to reroute rail to airport

Gabriel Sur Gabriel Sur
Romy Cachola Romy Cachola

By Leland Kim - bio | email

SALT LAKE (KHNL) -   Another step Wednesday in a possible route change for  Honolulu's commuter rail project.  A week ago, several city council members expressed an interest in having the train detour from the Salt Lake route.

The Honolulu City Council voted 7-1 Wednesday on the first draft of a measure to switch the route from Salt Lake to Honolulu International Airport.  Not unexpectedly, council member Romy Cachola, who represents Salt Lake, was the only one who voted against it.

It's not a done deal just yet, but if it goes through, folks who get off the plane eventually could hop on the rail.  The plan has strong support from the majority of the council and even from some in Salt Lake who won't get rail service.

Gabriel Sur and his daughter Kalei stop for lunch at one of their favorite spots in Salt Lake: Soon's Korean Barbecue.  It sits along Salt Lake Boulevard, the original route for the proposed Honolulu rail project.

"From Ala Lilikoi down to Maluna, it's only a two lane street so, if they're going to put in possibly six-foot pillars, that means the homes on Salt Lake Boulevard, has got to be displaced," said Sur.

He doesn't support the Salt Lake route, and neither does the majority of the city council.

"It is important to connect the airport because virtually every other municipal rail system in this nation has connected their municipal airport but most importantly for us here in Hawaii, tourism is the largest single sector of our economy," said council member Charles Djou.

But council member Romy Cachola wants it for his district.

"The exact words of the mayor was, ‘If you folks want Salt Lake, I'll give it to you,'" said Cachola. "He offered that to the community provided that council member Cachola will support it."

"The mayor did commit to council member and those present that he would respect the decision of council," said Wayne Yoshioka, the director of the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services.

Ultimately the mayor plans to go with what the council wants.

"If the council decides to go to the airport first, will the mayor stand by that?" asked KHNL.

"My understanding is that he would," said  Yoshioka.

Some Salt Lake residents are glad rail is being diverted from their neighborhood for the time being.

"And with parking so tight on Salt Lake Boulevard, you notice all the cars are parked on the streets, which means all those homes are going to lose their parking," said Sur.

The change, which has been widely reported, bumps up the cost by $220 million to $4.5 billion.  City officials insist this does not mean Salt Lake is out of the picture.  It just means the airport route will be finished first.

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