Things Are Booming Out West
Wednesday - April 27, 2011
From time to time I find it necessary to report to my East Honolulu readers (addresses and numbers unknown) on the state of affairs west of Red Hill. I feel this responsibility because of the migratory habits of my East Honolulu friends. They travel with astonishing regularity to Italy, France, the British Isles, Japan, China, Thailand, even Vietnam - but never, never to West Oahu.
A few years ago, there was a death in our family and several of our East Honolulu friends came to the funeral in a Catholic church in Ewa Beach. One of them, a Kailuan, upon driving the length of Fort Weaver Road, exclaimed: “Geeez! Whatever happened to the Leeward plain?”
The Leeward plain began disappearing during the administration of John Waihee. Population growth covered it with housing. Waihee’s successors had to build new elementary, intermediate and high schools to accommodate the children whose parents had moved into the region.
For the past few months, employees of Kobayashi Construction Company have been bulldozing soil and pouring concrete for the first phase of the University of Hawaii-West Oahu. Walls also have begun to go up.
It’s about time. In an April 18 front-page story in the Star-Advertiser, Mary Vorsino reported on the grossly overcrowded conditions at Ewa Beach’s Campbell High School, the state’s largest with an enrollment of more than 2,600 students. Campbell isn’t the only overcrowded Leeward high school. Seven of the state’s 10 largest high schools are to be found west of Red Hill: Campbell, Mililani, Waipahu, Kapolei, Leilehua, Waianae and Pearl City - none with an enrollment less than 1,800 students.
The University of Hawaii-West Oahu’s first phase will take 15 months to complete and will accommodate only 2,000 undergraduate students. So, for the time being, most of West Oahu’s students will still be finding their way by car or bus to Leeward Community College or the University of Hawaii at Manoa, thus contributing to the nightmarish morning commute to town.
That speaks to other activity west of Red Hill. At eight points from East Kapolei to Pearl City, huge Kiewit Construction Co. cranes are drilling 50- to 150-feet deep into soil and rock. It’s part of the design work on columns that will support the Honolulu Rapid Transit System’s elevated guideway. Legal suits threaten rail yet again, and our prolonged economic recession has caused many (this scribbler included, on occasion) to doubt its feasibility. But if we’ve learned anything these past few weeks, it’s that we in West Oahu, throughout Hawaii and across the nation remain price prisoners of imported oil: $4.39 per gallon at my last fill-up. We will continue to be its servants if we fail to develop alternative energy sources and mass transit systems. So I, for one, want to see that train on track.
So that’s the news from West Oahu: the University of Hawaii-West Oahu is going up and the train may be under construction. Oh yes, then there’s Kapolei, Oahu’s so-called “second city.” A few months ago, MidWeek contributers were invited to take a tour of the newly acquired state-of-theart printing facility in Kapolei.
I thought I knew Kapolei. I’d taught a twice-weekly class there a couple of years ago and had lunched there often. So I drove into Kapolei and promptly got lost. New streets, intersections and businesses large and small completely befuddled me. I finally bumped into the Star-Advertiser printing facility: 20 minutes late and too embarrassed to join the tour.
That’s the news from booming West Oahu.
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