REPORT FROM BOB MARX FOR CONGRESS – May 18, 2012, marked the first concrete pouring for Honolulu’s rail project, but according to Bob Marx, candidate for Hawaiʻi’s Second Congressional District, “Rail is the least of worries [for the State].” Honolulu’s rail project is now projected to cost over US $5 Billion, according to the project-financing plan prepared for the Federal Transit Administration.
Honolulu’s rail project is billed as a way to reduce traffic congestion on the freeways and generate local jobs, but research done shows that these claims are at best dubious. According to the final Environmental Impact Statement for the project, whether rail is built or not, population growth will add around 476,000 cars to the road by 2030. The rail project would reduce congestion by an insignificant 1.3%.
Speaking to a group of supporters in University Heights Thursday evening, Marx stated, “Spending over five billion on rail for one city is a waste of money, considering the various other transportation problems we have on the neighbor islands.” Forty-seven percent of rail funding comes from an excise tax increase for all Oʻahu residents, yet very few residents living on Oʻahu will benefit from the rail project. Despite this fact, even people who do not live in the area served by rail will still be paying for Honolulu’s bloated project.
Rural roads in the state of Hawaiʻi are ranked among the poorest in the nation. In September 2011, a report published by TRIP, a non-profit national transportation research group, ranked 29% of Hawaiʻi’s rural roads in poor condition.
The report also ranked 16% of bridges in Rural Hawaiʻi as structurally deficient. Furthermore, poor planning and design of roads leads to increased accidents and traffic fatalities.
According to a state report, in the County of Hawaiʻi, Highway 130 has accident rate nearly twice the state average, and 66% of accidents are fatalities. Marx stated that “traffic accidents in our communities can be prevented with regular maintenance and improvements to our roads…If elected, I will ensure that Hawaiʻi’s roads are improved.”
With the $5 billion allocated to the rail project, the DOT could instead update transportation infrastructure, and road fatalities could be significantly reduced. For example, the same report stated that with $138 million in funds, the accident rate on Highway 130 could be reduced by 25%.
It is not just the roads that need improvement. The State of Hawaiʻi imports 80% of all its goods, and harbors in Hawaiʻi account for 98% of imports. “Our harbors need to grow as population increases, and improvements to the most needed sites in Kawaihae and Hilo will cost $423 million. Whereas these projects are essential to Hawaiʻi’s growth, the Honolulu Rail project costs significantly more and produces exponentially less benefit,” Marx said.
With more pressing transportation concerns throughout the state, one might ask why the Rail project is being built at all. Marx criticized proponents of rail as “individuals beholden to special interests.”
Of the expenditures to date on the Rail Project, over $90 million was paid to Parsons Brinkerhoff, an international engineering and management firm. According to FEC campaign contribution reports, Parsons Brinkerhoff has regularly contributed large amounts of money to Mufi Hannemann, the former Honolulu mayor who initiated the Rail Project and is now running for Congress in the Second District.
When discussing the frivolity of the rail project, Marx remarked, “The rail project is a waste of money, we have real problems to solve in this state. Unlike [Hannemann], I am not beholden to any special interests. I have not taken any money from PACs. If elected, I will represent the people—that is what congress should do, that’s what I will do.”
Submitted by the Bob Marx for Congress campaign. Marx, a Hilo attorney and long-time community activist, is running against several Honolulu residents for the open seat. Marx lives in the district and is the only candidate in the race from a county other than Honolulu.