The debate about rail transit on Oahu has been ongoing for the past 10 years, but there is a project being quietly considered for the island of Maui.
Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa says if such a project is built, it will not be anything like Oahu’s rail system.
What he envisions for the island of Maui is a train on a monorail, or what is commonly referred to as a people mover.
Arakawa is already moving in that direction for the possibility of a rail project.
“We’re acquiring property along the coastline, along the highways, to make sure that in the future if someone wants the rail, we’ll have the property to do the corridors,” he said.
Arakawa says officials in the future may want to consider one of two corridors. One would have the rail track run from Kahului Airport to Wailea. The other would have the track run from the airport to Kapalua.
He says he doesn’t want for Maui what is now being built for Honolulu, what Arakawa calls a super transit system. Instead, he would like something similar to what he has found at popular visitor destinations on the mainland.
“Having gone to Disneyland and Disney World and talking to the engineers there, it’s one of the most efficient and easiest to maintain and to be able to run,” said Arakawa.
Right now, public transit on the island is a bus system operated under a public-private partnership.
State lawmakers from Maui are mixed about any kind of a rail project for the island.
“If you’ve seen the bypass road now being jammed car-to-car without accidents with visitors and whale watching, I think a lot of people would want an alternate way to go around the island,” said Rep. Angus McKelvey (D-West Maui, Maalaea, North Kihei).
“It may be appropriate to talk about something in the interim, but I’m not certain that a guide rail system similar to what you see in Disneyland is not the long-term solution to our traffic problems,” said Sen. Roz Baker (D-South and West Maui).