Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Various media outlets recently received an anonymous package of blue t-shirts with the words “Relocate the Turtles. Save the Traffic. Free Laniakea” and the names and phone numbers of three politicians, me included. When the media called, I told them I was unaware who may have sent the shirts, but I did have some comments to share on the subject.
There is probably not a single week that passes without someone asking me about the traffic nightmare at Laniakea and when we might expect relief. Regular readers are aware that I have been hitting my head against the Department of Transportation bureaucracy since 2005. We are all weary, yet determined.
When I started attending monthly meetings in Honolulu to advocate for a solution at Laniakea, the director of the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, the inter-governmental transportation planning agency, cautioned me that it was important to understand the DOT is an agency unto themselves. He said we could put a pot of gold at their feet, but if they chose to not pick it up, nothing would be accomplished.
Years later, a friend mentioned he had served as an inhouse attorney for the DOT. In response to my question, “How can we get the DOT to get moving on a project everyone knows should happen?” he replied, “The DOT should be abolished, they are that ineffective.”
My predecessors in office funded a traffic alternatives study in 2007. DOT failed to act. In 2009, DOT reprogrammed funds to support a study and it formally launched in January 2012. That “18-month” study is nowhere near completion. In April 2016, I pressed DOT during a public hearing on the state budget whether they would ever finish the study. They assured everyone the study would be complete by December 2016. Right.
Last year, the DOT was in trouble with the federal government because of an alarming number of backlogged projects and funding commitments. In response, they adjusted their priorities to complete short-term projects and highway maintenance. Their current posture is that they will not plan to build any new roadways. I do not disagree with the need to focus on highway maintenance, but the planning study has long been funded. Let’s get it done or cancel it!
A Laniakea realignment project was created for highway budgeting in 2010, but was deleted in 2011 at the same time the DOT was putting together the study task force. This shows their lack of interest in the project. About year or so ago, the DOT again created a realignment project for budgeting purposes in future years, but will they ever complete the study?
Rep. Quinlan successfully advocated and secured $15 million in dedicated state funding to begin highway work at Laniakea. DOT continues to resist. They claim they are aware of the situation, they are studying alternatives, and the $15 million would come at the expense of other projects. True, doubtful, false.