Hawaii Rail Project Least of State’s Worries

Bob Marx
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Bob Marx

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.






  1. Rail may be the least of worries, but without a viable solution to traffic woes, plus the transportation solution that allows for ARRA monies to flow in, Honolulu will not see the monetary delights of funding. Prevedouros gives us that answer that has previous eluded and confused INOWAY, and the smaller minded in the CITY and COUNTY, but of course no one wanted to listen to the academic that KNOWS!!! What else can be expected from a StATE that has a woeful academic one-track mind?

  2. The viewpoint expressed in this campaign press release is shortsighted and lacks an understanding of the fundamental factors that drive Honolulu’s economic growth both now and in the future. Second only to food and energy security, rail offers Hawaii the best opportunity for long-term sustained economic growth. But not just any growth, smart growth. Growth that allows us to re-imagine, re-build, and re-vitalize our neglected urban core, including improved infrastructure where most of Hawaii’s population lives and works. Furthermore, rail increases the socio-economic mobility of the most vulnerable and disadvantage of Honolulu’s population by providing this often overlooked population increased access to long term jobs and educational opportunities. Neither more buses nor more freeways can accurately make this claim, only rail. Rail also shifts Honolulu away from car-centric sprawl and back to green, sustainable and more livable neighborhood development.

    Rail is not about “special interests.” Rail is for the 99%. If you want to “Keep Country, Country,” then you should be for rail. Whether you ride it or not, rail is the most rural Oahu friendly and Windward side friendly kind of development because it incentivizes developers to focus Downtown instead of in our “Country” areas.

    If you don’t like rail then get ready to pave the North Shore, Kailua, Kaneohe, Hawaii Kai, Waimanalo, Haleiwa, and Wailua. If you want to “Keep Country, Country,” Yes on Rail!

  3. The thing I don’t understand is why Bob Marx is trying to buy his way into Congress; I read on Civil Beat he has almost completely funded his own campaign. Seems like he likes to toot his own horn.

    • What don’t you understand? Most candidates start their elections with their own money. It’s nothing new – and hasn’t been since the first elections were held.

      Tooting their own horn is what politicians do.

    • By financing their own campaign, or limiting donor contributions, one can keep from owing anything to outside interests and it helps keep the level of transparency high.

      I am sure that you can understand that.

  4. I like all of Bob Marx’s ideas. Too bad I’m in 1st district. He almost sounds like Cayetano, “fiscal sanity.” I think it’s commendable that he funded his own campaign so that he does not owe any “favors” to contributors, but I wish it didn’t cost so much for candidates to run… all those millions spent on advertising themselves. More power to him!

  5. Too bad Marx decided to use Obunga’s logo on his campaign signs. He should realize that gets him instant rejection before he has a chance to voice ideas.

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