Lawmakers propose new agency to oversee Hawaii's airports

Lawmakers propose new agency to oversee Hawaii's airports
Published: Mar. 29, 2016 at 8:40 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 30, 2016 at 3:11 PM HST
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Honolulu International Airport is the first impression for Oahu visitors. And, many say, it's not exactly a flattering one.

"It needs an update,"  said Helene Shapiro, who is visiting from Los Angeles. "I've been coming here for over 30 years and it's about time."

Hawaii resident Amy Tehada said she's heard from many visitors that the airport is a "nightmare."

In recent years, the aiport has grabbed headlines for its backlogged repairs, construction delays, and management issues, including a taxi bribery scandal.

Those problems prompted the majority of the Senate to pitch a plan that would replace state bureaucrats with a newly-formed Hawaii Airport Authority. The authority would hire airport executives. Right now, the airport is managed by political appointees.

"It would save money and be more efficient," said state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, chairwoamn of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee.

Even the state Department of Transportation is on board with the idea, and has submitted testimony in strong support.

But not everyone is convinced an authority would help modernize the airport.

"Over the years we've had all the plans and all the money and everything else and nothing was done," said state Sen. Sam Slom. "My point is, why do we need a new bureaucracy to get things done that were supposed to be done?"

Slom says the state should hold DOT responsible by replacing people who didn't do their job. "We get so used to letting things go on year after year and they shouldn't do that," Slom said.

The Senate approved the plan and it's been well-received in the House too, but it still has a ways to go before heading to the governor's desk.

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