City starts work on home of rail's brains and trains

City starts work on home of rail's brains and trains
Published: Aug. 6, 2012 at 10:04 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 7, 2012 at 12:44 AM HST
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WAIPAHU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Seeing is believing and today Senator Daniel Inouye went to see the 13 rail transit columns that have been built so far.

The visit comes five days before what could be a make or break election for the rail project. Senator Inouye continued his staunch support for rail saying the project is too far along to stop.

"It's one thing to see it in writing but to see it actually existing is heartwarming because at this moment everything is on schedule," said Sen. Daniel Inouye, (D) Hawaii and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair. "I've been working on this just about most of my political life and I want to be able to get on that little trolley car."

That little trolley faces a big challenge in this Saturday's election with frontrunner for mayor Ben Cayetano vowing to stop the project. He could win outright in the primary if he receives more than half the vote.

"If he does that then the people have spoken. It saddens me but the people have spoken," said Sen. Inouye.

Still he's convinced the rail could move on and $1.55 billion in federal funding could still come to Hawaii.

"What are we going to do tell the people of the United States we've already appropriated $250 million but we're going to dump it in the drain? No way," said Sen. Inouye.

However as mayor Cayetano would have power.  He would control the budget and could choose not to release rail money.  He would also eventually appoint some of the HART Board members who would likely share his views.

There are plenty of what if's so the city pushes on.  It held a blessing at the future site of the rail's operations and maintenance yard.  It's a 43 acre spot next to Leeward Community College which is about five miles from the west end of the line.  It's been called the home for the brains and the trains of the project because it's where all 80 cars will be worked on and where the driverless trains will be controlled in the main command center.

Also this week rail CEO Dan Grabauskas plans to push for some common sense changes like adding more seats to each train. Current plans call for only 64 seats in each train even though they are supposed to carry more than 300 people.

"If someone is going to get on at the beginning and travel to the end 40 minutes is a long time and we want to compete with people that are sitting in their car and if they can sit comfortably on the train, and as they say let someone else do the driving, I think we are really going to have a competitive advantage," said Grabauskas.

Other changes include making the stations less bulky and adding pay gates at each station instead of relying on the honor system for tickets.

"I think things like more seats, smaller scale stations, putting gates in for fairness so we don't have to chase people I think those are the kinds of common sense things I hope will inspire confidence in the system and I think people are going to ride it and love it," said Grabauskas.

Something else to keep in mind, this month the rail opponent's lawsuit could have a decision which will also be a major hurdle for the train.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.