Published on December 31st, 2012 | by Cynthia Shahan2
Homage To Daniel Inouye As His Passing Brings Rebirth In Funding For Honolulu Transit
A little over a week ago, at 88 years of age, Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye passed on. As a member in the chamber, he was the longest-serving US senator at the time of his death. He was considered a ‘titan’ senator, and in the wake of his passing comes a tribute to his work. It is a fulfillment to his plans for Hawaii — Honolulu’s new rail system. $1.55 billion in transit assistance from the tribute will help build, at long last, the rail transit project Inouye had advocated for. Inouye referred to the $1.55 billion offered by the FTA as “precious.”
If the recent Honolulu mayoral election had gone differently, and if Inouye weren’t so observant, this project might never had gotten funding. Mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano wanted to scrap rail plans in favor of bus rapid transit. Sen. Inouye saw through Cayetano’s idea, saying the BRT plan “would force Honolulu to the back of the line, adding years upon years of continued traffic gridlock,” since they would have to start from scratch to secure federal funding. Daniel Inouye’s legacy and hopes for Honolulu manifest in the wake of his passing.
At the tribute to Inouye, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood signed a full funding grant agreement. Inouye’s widow’s presence brought his love and life to the memorial as she stood at LaHood’s side witnessing her late husband’s hopes being made real as the Secretary committed the federal government to $1.55 billion in transit assistance.
Hawaii’s First-Ever Rail Transit System
This will be Hawaii’s first-ever rail transit system, with 21 stations along a 20-mile stretch, and is expected to relieve traffic on Interstate H-1, “one of the most congested highways in America,” according to LaHood. In the 1960s, some suggested building a new freeway to relieve congestion on H-1, but the population rebelled. Fifty years later, their much better idea — rail transit — is finally inching closer to fruition. More than 60 percent of Oahu’s population and 80 percent of its employment is located in the designated transit corridor, according to civic affairs journalism website Honolulu Civil Beat.
Breaking Barriers, Serving the US in WWII, Iran-Contra Hearings, Mass Transit, & More
The signers of the FTA grant agreement left a poignant blank space where Inouye’s signature would have gone. However, the breath of his story is wide: it is one of a WWII hero who broke barriers, led in diversity, and also proved his dedication to this project.
Thank you to NPR for a wonderful interview with the man, and a tribute covering his work, which extends far beyond WWII, mass transit, and Honolulu. In Congress, he kept a low profile until the Watergate hearings made him a star. When scandal caught up with another Republican president in 1987, Inouye was on TV again, this time chairing the investigation of Iran-Contra – the secret deal by members of the Reagan anministration to sell arms to Iran to fund right-wing fighters in Central America.
Hawaiins Fight For Rail
Inouye isn’t the only one who demonstrated his dedication to this project. The people of Oahu have signaled their own commitment by voting a half-cent tax to fund two-thirds of the new line’s construction. A big thank the taxpayers of Oahu for this bold choice.
Together, we are going to build a modern public transportation system that lives up to the vision of Senator Inouye and serves generations of Hawaiians long into the future. Hawaiin solar, wind, geothermal, and other green initiatives should help, as well.