Mayors support charging drivers more for highway use during peak commute times

Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 10:50 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s four county mayors made their annual appearance before the appropriation committees of the state House and Senate, seeking ways to relieve traffic congestion and to fund ways to clear away abandoned vehicles.

The mayors collectively want to be able to look at so-called “congestion pricing," which would make motorists pay higher fees or taxes if they drive on major highways during peak hours.

As for abandoned vehicles, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, “We would like you to allow us to create an additional $25 fee that will go straight into the highway beautification fund for each of our counties when you register a vehicle, and it would be used specifically for the purpose of dealing with abandoned vehicles.”

State Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D-Hilo, Waimea, Kona), who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, told the mayors they already have the authority to impose the fee under existing state law.

“I don’t think we need more new laws and we don’t need more new taxes,” said Maui Mayor Mike Victorino. “But using the funds that we have available -- I know we have beautification funds that we can utilize.”

All four mayors agree the abandoned vehicle problem is getting worse on their islands.

Some argue that it’s partially because vehicle owners have fallen behind in paying for registration ― and a lawmaker is among them.

“I have a motorcycle that’s six years behind, in my yard,” said state Sen. Kurt Fevella (R-Ewa Beach). “I cannot register 'um because I cannot afford the five years back on my motorcycle, so it’s still sitting there.”

Fevella is pushing for an amnesty program that Victorino supports.

“If you have five years, well, let’s forgive and forget, but get it registered this year, now. And that way you can go ahead and be productive and utilize that vehicle, and now you won’t abandon it in the next four or five years," said Victorino.

The mayors are also asking the state to look at congestion pricing, which is already used in London and will be adopted in New York next year.

“There is a lot of political capital here because you’re basically having people pay during peak travel times, and to decide not to if it’s not important,” said Caldwell.

The mayors also asked for the lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow them to regulate and tax ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

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