Hawaii Superferry Operations Debated

Monday, July 24, 2006
With less than a year until its first trip between islands, Hawaii Superferry has moved operations into high gear. According to the Honolulu Advertisers, while ferry officials were making preparations to move into their new 10,000-sq. ft. office space at Restaurant Row and start hiring what will eventually be about 300 employees, critics were equally busy making plans to delay the July 1, 2007, startup date of ferry operations. Maui County Council members on July 21 debated whether the county should join a civil lawsuit that could effectively block ferry operations until a lengthy environmental review of harbor plans is conducted. Despite the lawsuit and other potential obstacles, ferry officials say they are progressing on schedule to begin service on time next year: The company's first $90m ship is 80 percent complete and will be ready for sea trials by the end of the year. Meanwhile ramps and barges are being built in China, at a total cost to the state of $40m, that will allow up to 866 passengers and 282 vehicles to board the four-story, 340-ft. long catamaran in less than an hour. Critics, especially on Maui, want to slow the process. Backed by a coalition of environmentalists, farmers, small-business men, paddlers, harbor users and others, the County Council earlier this month unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution asking the state to delay Superferry operations on Maui until a harbor master plan and environmental review are completed. Superferry officials say they are working to address the concerns. In one major concession, they have agreed to scale back the initially planned twice-daily sailings to Maui to one visit instead, a move that will allow the ferry to arrive in Kahului mid-morning, rather than at lunch time when traffic congestion surrounding the port is at its worst. In another development, traffic studies commissioned by the ferry and made available to The Advertiser last week show potential congestion problems around port areas in Honolulu and Maui. In worst-case scenarios, some drivers in 2009 might end up seeing more than a minute added to their waiting time at already congested port-area roads, and several intersections could receive a new F rating — the most undesirable in traffic planning — when heavy ferry traffic is present. (Source: Honolulu Advertisers)
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