City's rail rendering

BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD – In 2004, I started keeping tabs on major events of the infamous Honolulu Rail. This link takes you to the 2004 to 2010 highlights. The 2011 highlights are below.

January 18: FTA issues Record of Decision. The ROD allows the city to take these actions if it so chooses (but read the statement after the list):

  • the acquisition of any real property or real property rights identified in the Final EIS or ROD as needed for the Project;
  • the relocation of persons and businesses on that property;
  • the relocation of the Banana Patch community, if it so desires, in accordance with the ROD;
  • the relocation of utilities affected by the Project; and
  • the acquisition of rail vehicles for the Project.
This pre-award authorization is not a real or implied commitment by FTA to provide any funding for the Project or any element of the Project. However, if FTA were to provide grant funding for the Project, the cost of the actions listed above, performed after RAMP approval, would be eligible expenses. No other Project action has pre-award authorization at this time.” [Underlined in the original].

January 31: The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation filed a lawsuit Monday afternoon in Honolulu Circuit Court to stop construction of the city’s $5.5 billion rail project.

“The complaint filed by Paulette Ka’anohiokalani Kaleikini claims both the city and state failed to perform a complete archeological survey of native Hawaiian remains, or iwi, along the entire 20 mile rail line as required by state law. Kaleikini is being represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the indigenous people.”

February 4: The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization released a Brief titled, “Honolulu rail Transit: Do the Benefits Justify the Costs?” Their conclusion was that, “Preliminary considerations suggest a high degree of uncertainty about whether the benefits of rail justify the costs. As the conversation about rail costs advances, we should continue to consider the relative size of the benefits.”

February 16: “FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said Tuesday the City and County of Honolulu’s revised financial plan for rail transit must be more robust and not compromise public bus service. “We need to see a financial plan that shows that they have not only the funding to meet their obligations above the federal commitment (but) they also need to demonstrate to us that they have sufficient resources to keep the existing bus service operating and well maintained,” said Rogoff, during a nationwide conference call with reporters. “In the most recent financial plan submitted to the FTA in September of 2009, the city uses of $300 million in federal bus subsidies to fund construction of the $5.5 billion elevated rail system.”

The city’s current financial plan for funding rail construction shows it will use $1.5 billion in federal New Starts funds, $300 million from the federal bus funds, and $3.5 billion from the additional ½ percent GE tax. As of the end of 2011 a “robust” financial plan is unavailable.

February 22: City has a “ceremonial groundbreaking”, not a groundbreaking ceremony in the middle of nowhere along the North-South Road.

March 22: Ansaldo Honolulu wins the bid to build the city transit cars for $574 million, and will also operate and maintain the system. See below a quick summary of the bids. Phase 1 is called Design-Build (DB) and phase 2 is called Operation and Maintenance (OM)

——- Ansaldo———Bombardier—— Phase
—-$573,782,793—-$697,263,592——-1, DB
—-$506,030,806—-$262,717,960——-2, OM
–$1,079,813,599—-$959,981,552——-Total build and 15 years of operation

For Phase 1 Ansaldo is $125 Million less than Bombardier, but in total Bombardier is $125 Million less than Ansaldo, and Ansaldo won! (Honolulu math….)

May 14: Complaint (LAWSUIT) filed against against the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, various executives of the Federal Transit Administration, and the City Transportation Director:

  • Count 1: defining the purpose and need so narrowly as to preclude consideration of all reasonable alternatives
  • Count 2: failure to consider all reasonable alternatives (NEPA)
  • Count 3: failure properly to analyze the environmental consequences of alternatives (NEPA)
  • Count 4: improper segmentation (NEPA)
  • Count 5: failure to identify and evaluate use of native Hawaiian burials and traditional cultural properties (section 4(f))
  • Count 6: arbitrary and capricious evaluation of the project’s use of section 4(f) resources
  • Count 7: improper project approval (section 4(f))
  • Count 8: failure to account for effects on historic properties (NEPA)

July 14: Rail contract appeals set for Sumitomo, Bombardier

July 16: Honolulu Magazine publishes critical article on rail

August 15: HART Board set— Eight of the ten-person “apolitical” and rail-clueless HART board consists of six current and former City employees and two union officials. The minority two are businesspeople. Also, Bombardier appeals to FTA in Honolulu rail dispute. And Sumitomo–Losing bidder on Honolulu rail project goes to HART of the matter.

August 21: How the city misled the public. By Walter Heen, Benjamin Cayetano, Cliff Slater and Randall Roth.

August 24: Closer look shows why Sumitomo may have decided against Honolulu rail appeal

August 27: Pacific Business News reverses position to now oppose rail.

September 13: Bombardier loses latest appeal of Honolulu rail contract

October 14: Bombardier files new appeal of Honolulu rail contract

October 21: Ansaldo, State Reach Deal on Licensing Violation
Ansaldo Honolulu JV has agreed to pay the state $150,000 to settle two cases alleging that the company didn’t have a contractor’s license. Submitting a bid without a contractor’s license constitutes unlicensed contracting. The fine for unlicensed contracting activity ranges from $2,500 and can run as high as 40% of the total contract price.

October 26, 2011: Ansaldo penalty ‘slap on the wrist,’ councilman says
City Councilman Tom Berg, a critic of the selection of rail car contractor Ansaldo Honolulu, said the city should have disqualified the Italian-based company because it was in violation of state law by bidding for the project before obtaining a contractor’s license.

November 23: Pro-rail Star Advertiser editorial tells HART “Honolulu’s contract with a subsidiary of an Italian conglomerate to design, build and operate the city’s rail transit project was scheduled to be signed next Friday, but a delay is needed to reassess what increasingly looks as shaky as the euro.” And “In our 100 year history The Outdoor Circle(TOC) has seen no other venture that holds the potential to degrade the landscape of Oahu as the proposed Honolulu Rail Transit project. TOC has been involved in virtually every step of the project from the moment it was first brought to the public for discussion. For more than five years, at every opportunity, we have urged the City to explain how it will mitigate Transit’s horrific visual damage to this island as well as the degradation to neighborhoods and communities along the route of this six billion dollar project.”

November 28, 2011: Why Does Carlisle / Hamayasu / Horner Stick with Ansaldo while Under so Much Fire?

November 29, 2011: The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation signed a $1.4 billion contract Monday with Ansaldo Honolulu JV, giving it the go-ahead to start construction on the system’s cars and other key components. There will be no guideway and rails for at least another 5 years. So why did we order trains?

December 12: Senior Federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima denied the City/FTA Motion to a) dismiss certain of the plaintiffs for lack of standing, and b) the plaintiffs did not identify certain historical sites during the environmental process. The lawsuit is definitely GO!

December 18: Bidding Irregularity and Delays Imperil Honolulu Rail Insurance Program 
“A program that was supposed to reduce insurance costs for the Honolulu rail transit project by $20 million has been indefinitely delayed after irregularities in the city purchasing process forced the city to cancel a key contract award. ”

December 29: FTA grants HART permission to enter the Final Design phase but has many difficulties with HART’s financial plan. The FTA asks HART to the State legislature and the City Council to get an unspecified extension of the ½ percent General Excise Tax increase or find other monies … “these revenue sources require actions by the State of Hawaii and/or the City that have not been taken and which are beyond HART’s ability to control. In addition, “HART made assumptions in three areas that require justification.”

The figure below is an exact copy of the City’s mid-2008 Draft EIS. The blue dashed line is my addition that shows that the project is late by 3.5 years well before any actual construction has started!

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