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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Construction panel supports rail

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A task force set up to look at ways to boost Hawai'i's ailing construction industry recommends going forward with the city's rail transit project, pointing to its potential for generating jobs and contributing to the state's overall economy.


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Going forward with Honolulu's much-discussed Rail Transit Project tops the list of recommendations by a task force set up to look at ways to boost Hawai'i's ailing construction industry.

Other initiatives recommended by the panel include developing more affordable housing projects, creating tax incentives to spur construction and easing government regulations faced by contractors.

However, the panel singled out rail as the area with the potential to have the greatest economic impact.

"While other plans for construction in both the public and private sectors will be helpful, no other project on the horizon has the same potential for generating jobs, assisting local businesses, and contributing to Hawai'i's overall economy," said the task force report released yesterday.

"Additionally, the rail project is shovel-ready, meaning that the benefits can be realized sooner than other undertakings that are not as further along in the planning process."

The recommendation is sure to spark more discussion on the $5.3 billion rail project, which has divided supporters and critics for more than two decades. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is attempting to finalize an environmental impact statement on the O'ahu project so it can be reviewed by Gov. Linda Lingle.

The support for rail, while garnering most of the task force's attention, represented just three of the 19 proposals the group proposed for jump-starting construction. The sector has been among the hardest-hit industries during the economic downturn.

Other recommendations included:

• Facilitate Hawaiian Home Lands development of affordable and workforce housing.

• Reduce county affordable/workforce housing requirements.

• A tax credit for hotel and time-share construction and remodeling.

• Allow exchange of unused low-income housing tax credits for interest-free loans.

• Expand enterprise zone initiatives to spur investment in designated areas.

• Enact an income tax credit for purchases of homes.

• Shorten public notice periods for government procurement.

• Require the state award contracts on bids within 30 days.

• Require the state to finalize contract certification within 60 days.

• Review exactions and financing for public infrastructure.

• Exempt the state Transportation Department from county Special Management Area permitting requirements.

• Expand the ethanol facility tax credit to biofuel facilities.

• Consolidate and accelerate regulatory approvals for large renewable energy projects.

• Allow more competition in electricity sales to attract more renewable energy investment.

• Streamline permit and governmental approval processes.

• Study a state mortgage guaranty fund.

The task force was established by a state Senate concurrent resolution last year and was formed to develop and propose actions to preserve and create construction jobs. The group was asked to look at a variety of proposals, including a tax credit for renovation or construction of tourism-related facilities.

The members of the task force are Perry O. Artates, Stanford Carr, Tom Foley, Michael Fujimoto, Warren Haruki, Don Horner, Rick Kahle, Ray Kamikawa, Micah Kane, Glen Kaneshige, Paul Oshiro, Bruce Robinson, John Sabas, Harry Saunders, Jeff Stone and Ron Taketa.