When your state is one of only two to either do or not do something, you should always ask why.

Take the establishment of an independent airport authority. Hawaii and Alaska are the only two states that don’t have one.

Now, if our airports were the model of efficiency and order, we wouldn’t need to question why we have eschewed something that the vast majority of states have deemed necessary. But as Denby Fawcett’s recent column illustrated, Hawaii’s airports are more than just an embarrassment, they are practically a public health hazard.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation is in charge of overseeing all 15 airports, even though no state money goes to paying for the airports’ expenses. An airport authority would effectively cut the red tape out of airport management, allowing Hawaii’s airports to respond to demands more efficiently.

A proposal to establish an airport authority in Hawaii failed last year (Senate Bill 3072), but Senate Transportation and Energy Committee Chairwoman Lorraine Inouye told Fawcett that she plans to introduce a new version of the bill this legislative session.

Hawaii would be wise to give it better consideration.

The airports are all self-funded through the airlines and airport concessionaires. They don’t use taxpayer money, but are run with the same oversight and bureaucracy as government agencies.

More than 8 million tourists travel through Hawaii’s airports every year. Thousands of kamaaina also regularly hop between the islands. Those travelers expect to be greeted by Hawaii’s crystal clear water and cool, sweet breezes.

Instead, too often the first thing they see are unkempt bathrooms, a lack of amenities (to include bathrooms) and facilities in various states of disrepair.

The state’s $2.7 billion airport modernization plan will do much to bring Hawaii’s facilities into the 21st century, but it remains a single infrastructure project — not a long-term solution to address and respond to changing circumstances.

That’s where an airport authority comes in. An independent governing body for the state’s 15 airports would be able to react to the need for updates and repairs more regularly. And the benefits go beyond just sanitary bathrooms (though that should be reason enough).

An authority would also supervise and encourage the development of aeronautics in the state — something that is currently inefficiently done across four state agencies.

Under the current system, everyday airport operations are held up by DOT’s bureaucracy. Simply hiring more cleaning or repair people, for instance, is an onerous process, and as a result, the airports are chronically short-staffed.

This is especially frustrating since the airports are all self-funded through the airlines and airport concessionaires. They don’t use taxpayer money, but are run with the same oversight and bureaucracy as government agencies. Even the Department of Transportation sees this as a problem.

As DOT chief Ford Fuchigami told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, “The airport is actually an enterprise — we don’t take general fund money or taxpayer dollars.”

An airport authority, he said, “gives the airport system the ability to move things along at a much quicker pace.”

The 22 members of the Airlines Committee of Hawaii agree wholeheartedly. Hawaiian Airlines executive Blaine Miyasato says “an airport authority will help us unravel the gridlock that holds our airports back from being the convenient, pleasant, world-class transportation hubs we deserve.”

With the DOT and the airlines on the same page, an airport authority seems like an obvious solution. SB 3072 failed last year, however, for a few reasons. Some expressed concerns over the airport authority board’s land disposition process while others were unclear over whether the airport authority would have the ability to issue bonds.

These aren’t insurmountable concerns. Forty-eight other states, after all, have figured out how to write this legislation. Hawaii should get on board.

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