Rail Will Help Accommodate West Oahu’s Growth

Reflections …Sen.Will Espero

Growth in Ewa

In 1989, I bought my first house in the Ewa by Gentry community for $159,000. It has been 25 years, and Gentry Homes is still building homes in Ewa Beach for many first-time buyers, along with developer Haseko down the street. The new million-dollar homes in Ewa have changed the demographics in our area, and new stores and restaurants have been a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

When I first moved in, Fort Weaver Road was two lanes in and two lanes out, and the medial strip was nothing but dirt. With a $55-million investment, we were able to add another lane in each direction, improving traffic and beautifying the area. Many old-timers in Ewa remember when Fort Weaver Road was one lane in and out, as it obviously was a slower, less busy time back then.

The $155 million we invested in Kualakai Parkway made a significant difference for Kapolei, and the parkway paved the way for Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center and University of Hawaii at West Oahu.

The dream of the “second city” is certainly becoming a reality, although somewhat slower than was expected. Thousands of homes have been built on the Ewa Plain in the last 25 years, and with the homes have come shopping centers, government buildings and new businesses and services.

The much-debated rail transit system is now being constructed, and this project is definitely a game changer. With an additional 200,000 or more residents expected in West Oahu in the future, another option for traveling or commuting is needed. People will have the choices of cars, buses or rail.

The first phase of rail is expected to be operational by 2017, with the full line to Ala Moana Center expected to be finished by 2019. Expect future expansion to UH Manoa and possibly Ko Olina.

Transit-oriented development will occur along the rail, with the new community of Ho’opili between Waipahu and Kapolei being the first neighborhood planned around rail. Next door in Waipahu, businesses and neighborhoods will be transformed as the rail transit system changes the character of this small plantation town. Areas like Waipahu Town Center, Waipahu Plantation Village and Waipahu Festival Marketplace should benefit from the rail.

Making West Oahu Bike Friendly

Another project I have been working on for some time is almost ready for construction and will make West Oahu a destination for cycling. The Leeward Bikeway will be a 15-mile, 10-foot-wide path from Pearl Harbor to Nanakuli, and it will probably be the best place to ride a bike on the island. Some people will be able to use it to commute to work via bicycling, but I expect the vast amount of users will be for recreational and fitness purposes.

Much is planned for the coming years, such as schools, parks, shopping centers and government facilities, and the best is yet to come. When fully built out, West Oahu easily will be able to compete as one of the most livable regions in the state.

State Sen. Will Espero represents District 19, which includes Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, and a portion of Ewa Villages. He can be reached at 586-6360 or senespero@capitol.hawaii.gov.