Is the Hawaii Legislature serious about an interisland ferry system?

The state Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy passed a bill late last week requiring the Department of Transportation to conduct a feasibility study of establishing a ferry system. 

Senate Bill 2618 notes, “Unlike other states, Hawaii does not enjoy the benefit of being linked to other states, cities, or towns via the federal interstate highway system or a network of interconnected state and local highways.”

SB 2618 now awaits scheduling of a hearing in Ways and Means. Meanwhile, on Tuesday two Senate committees will hear another ferry measure.

Cars drove aboard the Hawaii Superferry in Honolulu.
Cars drove aboard the Hawaii Superferry in Honolulu. Flickr: Ryan Ozawa

Senate Bill 3022 requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to conduct “any necessary environmental assessment” for the establishment of a intra-state or inter-state ferry system.

The measure also provides a nonrefundable tax credit and a 50 percent reduction in harbor fees during the first year of operation “for any company operating an inter-island ferry vessel.”

SB 3022 makes specific reference to the Hawaii Superferry and how it failed “due to a lack of mandatory environmental impact statements.”

The Superferry, the bill argues, “did prove to be a successful mode of transportation, for both persons and limited property, between the islands of Maui and Oahu. For a period of time, the operation connected family members, provided individuals physically unable to fly with a less burdensome alternative to air travel, and supported inter-island business opportunities.”

There are seven other bills floating the idea of a ferry, some carried over from the 2015 session. None as yet have been scheduled for hearings.

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