Oahu’s Shameful Third World Roads

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - December 12, 2007

It is beyond comprehension that we must endure roads typically found in Third World countries.

Wait a second. Even Third World countries have better road conditions than Hawaii.

Why in the world must we be subjected to such decrepit roadways? I have lived or spent a great deal of time in places such as Miami, Chicago, San Francisco and smaller U.S. cites. I have traveled to locales as disparate as Paris to Tahiti and Rome to New Zealand. The roads in these other communities and foreign nations were just fine. I have spent a lot of time on other islands. Places like Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Aruba, Curacao, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Martinique and Antigua overall had better roads than what we have on Oahu.

What could possibly be the explanation? Here is what I do know. The roads suck.

It doesn’t really matter where you go. Sections of the H-1 are ridiculously pitted and marginally traversable. The outside lanes of the Pali Highway have been in such disrepair that motorists will, if at all possible, avoid driving them. Until recently, the Diamond Head-bound lanes of the Nimitz Highway morphing into Ala Moana Boulevard by Restaurant Row were so damaged, drivers would take alternate routes to avoid them. Yes, repairs have begun, but why in the world does it take years and years before action is taken?

The city?

Instead of highlighting the roads that are in dire need of repair, it would be easier to identify the roads that are in decent shape.

Again, the question is why? It certainly is not a money issue, and if anybody tries to tell you it is, they are taking you for a ride.

You pay nearly the highest taxes in the nation. At this cost, it is not unreasonable to expect decent governmental services and that your roads should be the best anywhere.

Let’s take a look at the state of Hawaii budget. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, Hawaii has a total budget of $10.28 billion. Yes, that’s billion. The Operating Budget for FY2008 is $5.2 billion. The Capital Improvement Project (CIP) Budget for the Department of Transportation for FY2008 is $512.9 million. However, these monies are allocated among the Airports, Harbors and Highways divisions.

Clearly, there is not a lack of funds available to state authorities. The issue is prioritization. If our state administrators and lawmakers made our road conditions a priority, we would have exponentially better streets and highways. As an example, funds allocated to education are 22.3 percent of the budget, University of Hawaii is 10.7 percent and Human Services is 18 percent, whereas Transportation gets only 5.8 percent and the allocation to highways is much less.

Is transportation more important than education? Not necessarily. The point is a more efficient use of these massive resources would prove there is more than enough money to go around to take care of all of our needs, including our roads.

Consider the City and County of Honolulu. According to Bill 30 CD2 regarding the FY 7/1/07-6/30/08 budget, the city has a General Fund Budget of $1.3 billion and a Capital Improvement Project Budget of $790 million. In regard to highways and streets, there is an appropriation of $23.7 million to road maintenance with $1.3 million going to administration. To put this in perspective, the Debt Service paid from the General Fund is $294 million, you subsidize TheBus to the tune of $106 million and the Transit Fund got $135 million from the General Fund. Of the CIP, there is an allocation of $64.3 million to highways and streets.

Is this a sufficient amount of money? Yes. Is the money being budgeted correctly? Not if you want better streets.

If you are sick and tired of driving on pitted and potholed roads, this should be your “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” moment. It is election year for five of nine councilmembers and the mayor. Your state representative is up for re-election, and your state senator may be looking for your vote. Tell him or her you want your highways and streets repaired or replaced now. Not 20 years, 10 years or five years later, but now. If they don’t give you the answer you are looking for, then fire them. Period.

You are doing your job by paying high taxes. Your government needs to do its job, too.

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