Lawmakers pass on fuel tax again, putting major road projects in jeopardy

Lawmakers pass on fuel tax again, putting major road projects in jeopardy
Updated: May. 23, 2017 at 11:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's deja vu for the state Department of Transportation.

For a second year in a row, lawmakers have blocked the DOT's request to increase taxes for Hawaii drivers, even though the tax hikes were backed by Gov. David Ige.

Now the DOT said major road projects may have to be put on hold.

The proposal would have increased the state fuel tax from 16 cents to 26 cents per gallon, bumped up annual registration fees from $45 to $50 and raise the motor vehicle weight tax by a quarter of a cent.

"We had concerns about the cost of living on the working family, so we rejected last year and this year to increase vehicle weight and gas tax," said state Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee. "We're asking the state to re-evaluate some of these projects and re-allocate to areas that really need the help."

The DOT says without the expected $100 million in additional highway funding, it will have to shift its focus on system preservation projects that take up far less money and time.

That means no new lanes and no new roads, just basic maintenance of what's already there.

The DOT confirmed one project saved from the chopping is the $200 million Kapolei Interchange Complex project.

State Sen. Mike Gabbard, who represents the area, said stopping construction would have been counterproductive in the quickly growing second city.

"With the project being 40 percent completed and due to be completed by mid-year of 2018, it doesn't make any sense given the fact we have two new hotels soon to be opening up half a mile from here and a catholic church moving from Makakilo to here," Gabbard said. "I'm open and willing to sitting down with DOT and all the stakeholders to see if we can come up with creative ways so we can make these projects happen."

The Department of Transportation declined an interview with us Tuesday and didn't say which projects it's re-considering.

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