LIHUE — It’s a topic with which The Garden Isle is very familiar: Traffic congestion.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz wants to hit it head on, not only for Hawaii’s sake, but all other states that are faced with similar challenges.
“In Hawaii, increased traffic congestion has made it more challenging for people to go to work or to connect with friends and family,” Schatz said in a statement,
On Wednesday, he announced his proposed legislation, the Transit-Oriented Development Infrastructure Financing Act, that’s aimed to provide additional tools to build more pedestrian friendly communities around public transit stations.
“By making projects financially feasible in neighborhoods around transit, we can build safer communities, improve our infrastructure, and create jobs while preserving water and undeveloped land,” he said.
The Hawaii Democrat introduced the legislation along with Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.
The goal would be for cities to finance the development of more walkable, bikeable communities around easy to access public transit, specifically by making a broader array of projects eligible for loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit through the U.S. DOT Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program.
Pedestrian paths and public transportation have long been points of discussion on Kauai. The county could be in line for state money to build around 25 new bus stops this year, and has built out the Ke Ala Hele Makalae path. The county also recently completed the Rice Camp senior housing development, which incorporated multi-use access near public transit and around the Lihue town core.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, a longtime proponent of expanding pedestrian and public transportation access across the island, wrote in a email about her reaction to the federal proposal.
But, she said, often times federal legislation is meant for larger cities, like Honolulu, and often doesn’t apply to rural areas such as Kauai.
“Hopefully, the legislation does cover Kauai and other neighbor islands,” she said. “It will be welcomed support for our efforts here to make the Kauai Bus more user-friendly. Then more families will be able to use the bus and save money.
The senator said locating housing and businesses within walking distance of a bus or rail station increases economic opportunities and creates better access to jobs for working families. A goal of the program would be to free up household income by reducing dependence on automobiles and benefits the environment by using land more efficiently, preserving undeveloped land and protecting water quality.