Maui Discussion

LETTER: Department of Transportation Responds to Runway Opinion Piece

January 25, 2012, 11:15 AM HST
* Updated January 26, 9:34 AM
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This letter is in response to OPINION: Big Dollars and Dubious Info at Runway Meeting published January 24, 2012.

By Daniel Meisenzahl, Hawaii Department of Transportation

crowd dot info meet

A standing-room-only crowd listened to a presentation on improvements to the Kahului Airport runways. Photo by Susan Halas.

I have to disagree with Ms. Halas on some of the points made in her editorial.

First of all, when word of the project first came out in the media right here on the Maui Now website, the Department of Transportation (DOT) was in the process of setting up stakeholder meetings and finalizing the information. Ms. Halas did not have all the facts and her source on the story did not have the correct information. I did confirm that an option could cost $30 million to $60 million which is only one of the three construction options.

I told her and the editor of Maui Now that I would not release any information until it was finalized, so for Ms. Halas to state, “It was also indicative of things to come that Meisenzahl, who pegged the project costs in $30-$60 million range as recently as mid-December was now, just a month later, presenting ball-park figures that looked closer to $300 million,” is an example of cherry-picking certain facts in order to serve her point of view.

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Ms. Halas also failed to mention something I went to great lengths to explain at the public meeting. This type of public involvement so early in the process is unprecedented. Normally, in a case like this, a government agency makes a decision with no public input and then begins the environmental process. It is during that process that public input is sought and different options are examined. The DOT decided very early on in this process that the airport stakeholders and public would be included in the interest of transparency and in the hope that issues and concerns that DOT officials may have overlooked could be addressed.

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I do agree with Ms. Halas regarding the tone of the meeting. Leaders from Maui unions, travel industry and business organizations did rally the troops and the majority in attendance favored the third option. Although many residents with legitimate concerns may have felt discouraged to voice them, forms were provided to submit written comments. Fortunately, we already have a dialog with many of those residents and we are working to address their concerns.

As promised during the meeting, the entire presentation has been posted on the DOT and Airports Division websites at hawaii.gov/dot and public input can still be e-mailed to [email protected] and public input can still be e-mailed to [email protected] Lastly, I wish Ms. Halas had taken to time to approach me after the meeting to discuss some of these concerns and get all of the information before writing her editorial.

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