Transit Project Too Destructive-TOC Board Examines Options
Posted on OutdoorCircle.org, November 15, 2011
The Outdoor Circle’s mission since 1912 has been to keep Hawaii clean, green and beautiful. Our Islands are free of billboards and have a wonderful urban forest due in large measure to the dedication and hard work of our members who are deeply committed to protecting and enhancing one of the most beautiful places on earth.
In our 100 year history The Outdoor Circle (TOC) has seen no other venture that holds the potential to degrade the landscape of Oahu as the proposed Honolulu Rail Transit project. TOC has been involved in virtually every step of the project from the moment it was first brought to the public for discussion. For more than five years, at every opportunity, we have urged the City to explain how it will mitigate Transit’s horrific visual damage to this island as well as the degradation to neighborhoods and communities along the route of this six billion dollar project.
The Outdoor Circle favors and will support an alternatively sound transit proposal but only one that includes elements that will reduce traffic and protect Hawaii’s greatest asset, the unique and incomparable beauty of our islands. But with no satisfactory alternatives forthcoming The Outdoor Circle has concluded that it cannot and does not support the project as proposed and we now are exploring all available options to determine the most feasible and effective actions we might take to stop it.
Of great concern to TOC is the visual damage caused by Transit. The City acknowledges that the damage will occur but has determined that the blight the project creates is the price our residents and visitors must pay for “progress.” Imagine the cumulative visual impact of more than 20 miles of a massive elevated concrete guideway, supported by 720 large concrete columns with the inevitable graffiti and enormous transit stations. The project is destined to become an ugly scar across one of the most beautiful places on earth while there is little evidence that it will bring relief to Oahu’s unacceptable traffic situation.
We also are distressed that the proposed project requires the removal of nearly 900 trees. TOC is consulting with the City’s Transit team to make certain that relocated trees are properly handled and that contractors pay for those that are not. Hundreds of trees already have been or will soon be removed and destroyed. But given that the Federal government has not yet guaranteed that it will fund the project we strongly question whether the tree removals and other preparatory work should continue.
A group of individuals and Hawaii grassroots organizations has filed a lawsuit to stop this project. TOC supports the lawsuit and believes it is necessary because the City’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) failed to conform to the National Environmental Policy Act and did not adequately evaluate less intrusive “alternatives.” Examples of alternatives include an expanded flexible bus system, staggered work hours, creative transportation options for thousands of students, private jitney services or possibly an at grade rail system.
In addition, the FEIS fails to adequately explain how the City will mitigate the damage the project will inflict on O‘ahu view planes. Instead the city explains in the FEIS that the visual intrusiveness will be mitigated by community sensitive architectural designs and then softened by a variety of landscaping schemes, tree plantings, etc. The City has offered no details about these efforts, instead stating that the details of this work will be developed in concert with the communities as the project moves forward. But TOC’s position is that these details should have been proposed and vetted before the completion of the FEIS. And why didn’t that happen? The Outdoor Circle believes the answer is that no level of design or landscape can erase the physical, visual barricade being created to mauka-makai views for the entire length of the project. In this regard the FEIS fails to offer relief of any kind.
The Outdoor Circle now is considering how we might best support the broad based coalition of organizations and individuals which is challenging this project in court. We also encourage others to support the lawsuit. We are hopeful that through our combined efforts we can convince the courts to put the brakes on the current Transit project and force the City to offer real alternatives and real mitigation that will bring true relief to Honolulu’s traffic madness without pillaging the beauty of the place we call home.
Read more about TOC’s history on transit by clicking here.
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