Hawaii's DOT Director Fuchigami Focuses on Sustainability
Sustainability goals, infrastructure improvements and innovative solutions to moving cargo and people present challenges, which Ford Fuchigami, Director of the Hawaii Department of Transportation, is prepared to meet.
"It's a team effort and the reason we have been successful," Fuchigami says. "Transportation is not just about transportation any more. It's about environment and achieving other goals in addition to traditional objectives."
HDOT employs about 2,700 people and operates on a $1.2 billion budget. Fuchigami oversees three divisions: highways, harbors and airports, which he formerly led. Each has a deputy director. There also is a deputy director of administration.
"Having worked at the largest of the three divisions got me ready for doing this job," Fuchigami says. "We are constantly under the limelight."
Eighty percent of consumer goods come through the state's harbors, 98 percent of people arrive at the airports, and everyone with a vehicle drives on the state's roads. Twenty-seven percent of all highways, 254 miles of road, are on the island of Oahu, which is home to 70 percent of Hawaii's residents.
Eighteen years working in the hospitality sector also has prepared Fuchigami for his current job as Director, particularly when it comes to communications and working with people from different industries.
Coming from the private sector, "I've tried to establish the DOT as a private-sector business," Fuchigami explains. "I consider myself the chief executive officer. My deputy directors are chief operating officers. They run the day-to-day operation. It's my responsibility to set policy and get the proper funding to accomplish their jobs and provide them with the tools necessary."
Each year, HDOT appeals to the legislature for $1.4 billion for capital improvement projects. Fuchigami also is working with legislators to establish an airport corporation to operate the airports, which he said would have added efficiency and reduced redundancy and speeded up construction projects. Hawaii is one of only three states with state-run airports.
"We feel the state was not set up for enterprises like the airports and harbors," he says.
Hawaii has set goals for renewable energy, and Fuchigami aims to meet those milestones. The state is experiencing deterioration of its shorelines and that could threaten roads and other infrastructure built near the shore.
"We're looking at sustainability and energy savings," Fuchigami says. "As an island state, our natural resources are very important."
The state has 2,500 lane miles, 10 commercial harbors and 15 airports. All three are working on sustainability projects, in alignment with Governor David Ige's Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative sustainability goals.
"We have to have 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2045," Fuchigami says. "The goal has been set by law, and we need to get to the goal and are working on it very carefully."
Currently, 65 percent of fossil fuels used in Hawaii are for surface transportation, aviation fuel and maritime fuel. HDOT is investigating B20 and B100 biodiesel fuels, hydrogen-fueled vehicles and electrical vehicles. The airport parking structures have one charging station per 100 stalls.
The department has three projects under way to reduce the use of electricity. The airports division spent $245 million on exchanging about 75,000 high-pressure sodium light fixtures with LED fixtures in the 12 commercial aviation airports. LED bulbs last long, cutting down on maintenance time. The department reduced energy consumption by 49 percent and reduced inventory from 600 different types of fixtures to 90. The department also installed new transformers and added smart controls, with motion detectors, which will dim the lights when the space is vacant.
"It is the largest energy-saving performance contract in the United States," Fuchigami says.
In the highway division, the department also exchanged high-pressure sodium lights with LED lights. The $60 million investment not only reduces electricity consumption but also meets the state's dark skies regulations.
At the harbors, the department spent $27 million converting the high-pressure sodium lights to LED and installed sensors and smart controls.
"The savings we get from the reduction of utility costs we can use for other projects," Fuchigami says.
Roads and Public Transportation
Infrastructure improvements are needed to efficiently move consumer goods and people around the state and welcome tourists and business travelers at the airports, Fuchigami says.
Hawaii receives about $171 million annually from the federal government for highways, and it has not always spent that money quickly. Since December 2014, HDOT has decreased the backlog of federal money from $757 million to $548 million and has a goal to reduce it to $450 million by October 2018, which Fuchigami expects to meet.
"We have gotten away from doing capacity projects and going to preservation," he said. "We are maintaining the roads we have in existence."
HDOT is promoting a mileage-based user fee. The state received a $3.98 million grant to conduct a demonstration project, now under way. The state's annual safety check records mileage on the car. So, on an annual basis, the state knows how many miles have been driven and can charge drivers a fee.
Fuchigami is looking into a ferry service to take people from island to island and from one location on an island to another, to help move people off congested roads. The department received $50,000 from the state legislature and $500,000 from the federal Maritime Administration to conduct a feasibility study.
"It will take a tremendous investment," he said. "Either the county or state has to subsidize the fares by about 30 percent."
HDOT's airports division has the largest operating budget, at $488 million. It is in the midst of a $2.7 billion modernization program. Several airports need expansion, yet any expansion of the airfields also require roadwork to accommodate passengers and freight.
"Having funding for both is important," Fuchigami says.
As a member of the U.S. Department of Transportation National Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism Infrastructure, Fuchigami will have an opportunity to explain that to government officials. He is one of 25 public and private sector members advising the federal department about current and emerging priorities, issues, projects, and funding needs related to the use of the intermodal transportation network of the U.S. to facilitate travel and tourism. Fuchigami sits on the finance committee.
"I was honored to be nominated," he says. "We are trying to shape policy and ask the administration for funding."