By Brennon Morioka

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) appreciates Lowell L. Kalapa’s concise editorial (The Tax Man: Don’t Turn an Eye to Problem Waiting for Highway Users) that highlights the issue of ensuring the viability of the state’s highway system and the health of the state highway fund.

The Lingle-Aiona Administration acknowledged this need and began working on addressing this concern over four years ago, with the participation of Mr. Kalapa and others, and developed comprehensive and proactive legislation called the Highway Modernization Bill two years ago.

The DOT has been working to implement critical highway projects and programs that reduce traffic congestion, improve highway safety, maintain roads and save motorists time and money. When the Highway Modernization Bill was originally introduced during the 2009 session, it stressed the necessary improvements to close the infrastructure gap.

While it also proposed increases to various user fees once the economy turns around, the measure would ultimately bring taxpayers long-term financial savings.

Under current conditions, every 10 minutes of traffic delays on our highways costs each driver roughly $600 per year, and for commercial vehicles, these costs are magnified to $3,300 per year. But continuing to allow our roads to deteriorate will burden residents with hidden taxes in the form of inefficiencies and inconveniences.

Because we understand that this state and its residents have been greatly affected by the current economic challenges, the DOT also proposed that the increases would only take effect when HawaiÔi experienced a 1% job growth over two consecutive quarters.

While we appreciate the Legislature’s time and efforts, we are disappointed that the Legislature did not pass this important legislation that would help alleviate traffic congestion and increase safety on our highways statewide.

Brennon Morioka, Ph.D, P.E., director of the Hawaii state Department of Transportation, issued this response