A bill that would require the Hawaii Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of a new route to connect Ewa to downtown Honolulu has cleared its first committee.

The idea would be to have a private-public partner design, build and operate an underwater tunnel for vehicle traffic to “provide a more direct connection” between the regions.

It could include expansion of roadways as necessary “to maximize use of the tunnel.”

According to House Bill 1950, the Legislature finds that “the upcoming decades will bring tens of thousands of new homes” to the Leeward Coast and nearby areas of West Oahu. “Traffic experts predict that vehicular congestion will double or triple as a result of the growth in population.”

A screen shot of a Google map of Oahu between Ewa and downtown, the focus of a bill calling for the study of an underwater tunnel.

Google

It continues: “Completion of Honolulu’s rail transit project, potential implementation of toll roads, and other traffic mitigation efforts, while helpful, will not be enough to provide the additional transportation capacity for west Oahu residents.”

The lead author of the HB 1950 is Rep. Rida Cabanilla Arakawa, a Democrat who represents Ewa and Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry and Ewa Villages, Hoakalei and Ocean Pointe.

The legislation does not indicate exactly where an underwater tunnel would be built, but it posits that the U.S. Navy “will not oppose the construction of an underwater tunnel because naval vessels commonly traverse underwater tunnels on the east coast of the United States and throughout the world.”

This is not the first time a tunnel connecting the West Side to downtown has been proposed, but the idea never seems to gain much traction.

HB 1950, which would appropriate an unspecified amount of funds to the DOT for the study, awaits a hearing in the House Finance Committee.

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