Navigating through rail report

November 2nd, 2008

At last, the city has completed and released a huge document detailing its $5 billion rail transit system. We — well, proponents and critics of the rail, the press and probably those living along the route — have been waiting for months to leaf through these massive report.

But now that we have all 500-plus pages of the report, the challenge is getting through it all.

The city has posted the full report online for residents to view it themselves given the huge public interest in it. I thought I’d give you a guide to reading the Draft Environmental Impact Statement based on my notes so you don’t hurt your eyes like I did reading through it all. Or check Monday’s Star-Bulletin for stories on the report and community reaction.

Chapter 1: Background, Purpose and Need
Feel free to skip over this for those who followed the rail transit issue closely. But it’s a good refresher for those who want the basics of the project, such as the timeline leading up to now and Oahu’s traffic patterns.

Chapter 2: Alternatives Considered
Again, it’s OK to pass on this chapter, but I did find some things useful here. This chapter includes full maps of the alignment and diagrams of the stations.

Chapter 3: Transportation
Lots and lots of statistics and numbers relating to ridership and projected traffic numbers. There was also a little interesting section on the number of street parking stalls the rail transit system could remove. About 820 to 960 off-street and 230 to 250 on street spaces could be lost, with the most in Salt Lake.

Chapter 4: Environmental Analysis, Consequences and Mitigation*
This is probably the most interesting (and longest) section that gives us the newest information. It gives us comprehensive information on the land acquisition, which will probably include some condemnations, schools affected, buildings most affected by noise and cultural sites that will be disturbed. Check page 4-145 for a list of potential “cultural resources” affected, which include some local favorites like Dee Lite Bakery, Aku Bone Lounge & Grill and Kanpai Bar & Grill.

Chapter 5: Evaluation
Read this for good details on the plantation homes that may be displaced for widening on Dillingham Boulevard.

Chapter 6 to 8 on Costs, Evaluation Alternatives and Comments
Probably the most anticipated chapter (six) on costs. The charts not only breakdown the costs for construction and annual operational costs, but the tables compare the three studied routes and also include inflation and interest.

For example, the city has started using $3.9 billion as the cost of constructing the cheapest Salt Lake route, but that’s in current dollars. After it’s built, the system’s expected to cost $5.26 billion.

I skimmed the last two chapters.

(*Sorry the file was too big to upload, so I will direct you to the project’s Web site again.)

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