In overcoming current economic difficulties, we cannot operate in a “business-as-usual” fashion. The need to intensify our efforts has been the thrust behind my Administration’s ambitious $1.87 billion capital improvement project initiative to stimulate the economy and create jobs. It is also a major theme of legislation that my Administration, in collaboration with legislators, is proposing this session to change and improve how our state departments fulfill their responsibility to the people of Hawai‘i.
The Department of Transportation, working with the chairs of the Senate and House transportation committees, is leading the charge with legislation it unveiled on January 22 for a $4.2 billion, six-year Highways Modernization Plan made up of more than 180 projects statewide that will deliver the type of roadway improvements residents have been waiting for and deserve.
Current infrastructure funding barely maintains the status quo. This plan proposes new revenue streams, generated by increases in the liquid fuel tax, state vehicle registration fee, vehicle weight tax and rental car surcharges, that would boost the amount of available funds we have from $2 billion to $4 billion for needed highway improvements statewide.
During this global economic downturn, we realize that we must remain sensitive to the financial situations of our local families and businesses. That is why we are proposing that these increases only take effect on the condition that Hawai‘i’s job growth increases by one percent for two consecutive quarters, projected to begin no earlier than fiscal year 2012.
Current estimates show that every 10 minutes of traffic delays on our highways costs drivers roughly $600 per year in lost productivity and fuel costs, and $3,300 per year for commercial vehicles. Given the impact traffic has on our finances and residents’ quality of life, it is clear that the long-term savings – and increased safety – which substantive improvements to our highways would produce make the initial investment sought by the legislation worthwhile.
Of course, if we are asking the public to increase their investment in roadway solutions, we need to be up front about when projects will be delivered, the price tag of each project and when each initiative will be completed. To do this, we are proposing that the revenue be placed in a newly created special fund that would provide greater accountability and transparency.
On the Big Island, this legislation would help to move forward 27 highway projects worth nearly $525 million, including the $84 million widening of Kuakini Highway from Henry Street to Kamehameha III Road and the $183.3 million Kawaihae Road Bypass from Waimea to Kawaihae. Forty million dollars would also be available for pavement preservation projects around the island.
During my State of the State Address on January 26th, I was able to speak in greater detail about many of my Administration’s initiatives (get info at www.hawaii.gov/gov/initiatives ) and the need for collaboration between the public and private sectors and across the political aisle. I encourage you to listen, watch or download the text version from my website at www.hawaii.gov/gov.
I also hope you will take an active role this legislative session – which ends May 7 – either through submitting testimony, voicing your opinions to your legislators or sending my office your ideas and concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Governor Linda Lingle