HONOLULU — Hawaii's county mayors asked the Legislature to consider a proposal to charge motorists a fee for driving on key roads during peak traffic hours.
A joint hearing of the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees heard the fee proposal among the transportation requests presented by the Hawaii Council of Mayors Wednesday.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell asked lawmakers to study the concept known as congestion pricing, which is used in London and other major cities and was recently approved by New York state.
"No matter what county you have, we have a huge issue with traffic congestion," Caldwell said.
A study of congestion pricing would be useful in helping to identify zones of congestion, pricing options and uses for the revenue generated, Caldwell said.
Congestion pricing fees would force commuters to rethink how they travel and hopefully get them out of their personal vehicles, Caldwell said.
The mayors hope to start a dialogue on the measure that could be "politically unpopular," he said.
Proponents believe congestion pricing could save governments money by reducing the funds spent on road improvements and other infrastructure. Opponents worry a surcharge on rush-hour traffic penalizes working people.
The mayors also want the Legislature to provide the opportunity to establish a $25 fee applied to car registrations to deal with abandoned vehicles. The fee "will go straight into the highway beautification fund for each of our counties," Caldwell said.
"I don't think we need more new laws and we don't need more new taxes," Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said. "But using the funds that we have available — I know we have beautification funds that we can utilize."
Democratic state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the mayors have the authority to impose the fee.
"The burden is on the counties," Inouye said. "You already can; you can address the problem yourself."