Honolulu City Council Approves $450 Million in Commercial Paper to Strengthen Rail’s Financial Plan

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BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – The Honolulu City Council passed bill 37 on the second of three scheduled readings last night after its monthly meeting that included several controversial items.


Bill 37 would allow the city to borrow as much as $450 million in commercial paper for its planned $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel rail project, something the city administration and the head of the rail authority, say is needed to strengthen the rail financial plan.

The bill passed on the second reading by a vote of 6 to 2. City Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi and Council member Tom Berg voted against the proposal, with Stanley Chang absent.

Mayor Peter Carlisle said at a January press conference that he would not need the $450 million unless – quote – the moon fell into the ocean.

So last night, Kobayashi reminded the administration of that, and said she would like to include in the bill that the city cannot use the $450 million unless the moon falls into the ocean.

Kobayashi is frustrated with the city’s many misrepresentations of the project, she said.

Kobayashi pointed out the city originally pledged to build the $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel rail without borrowing any funds or using funds other than GET revenue and federal funds.

But now the city will borrow up to $1.9 billion in city CIP funds, and use as much as $450 million in commercial papers, and $244 million from the bus and handivan maintenance and repair fund to finance the 20-mile system.

In addition, when the public voted to support the rail in 2008, the project was $3.7 billion and it would run from Kapolei through Salt Lake and to the University of Hawaii, but now it is $5.3 billion for just the first segment, which skips Salt Lake and ends far short of the University and Waikiki.

Council members were astonished to learn this week via a letter from HART CEO Dan Grabauskas that to build the entire rail system, from Kapolei to the University of Hawaii and Waikiki, will now cost taxpayers just over $9 billion.

Kobayashi and Berg both said they cannot burden city taxpayers with this debt.

Both Council Members Tulsi Gabbard and Romy Cachola voted yes with reservations, while Council Members Ernie Martin, Breene Harimoto, Nestor Garcia and Ikaika Anderson voted with strong support for the measure.

Several members of Go Rail Go attended the hearing, holding signs in support of the project.

This morning beginning at 9 a.m., the city council budget committee will meet on several funding proposals. Those include HART’s capital and operating budgets, the city administration’s operating budget and the issuance of up to $1.9 billion in bonds for the rail project.






  1. An insider who wishes to remain anonymous, claims mayor Carlisle was referring to a whimsical definition of “moonset” or “when the moon falls from the sky”. The good mayor said if funds are withdrawn, he will check astronomical data for times of moonset to ensure he holds true to his word.

    When asked when funds may be released for public restrooms and facilities repair, Carlisle gave him a firm commitment, again using a familiar astronomical term, “Once in a blue moon”.

  2. Vegas Lite rail Cost 4 Billion 4 mile lite rail—–> Ridership —–> 50 Million in 5 years….. still Bankrupt…
    Ok——-> Hawaii 5 Billion —- 15 mile lite rail—no way—- I will ignore this part…
    Now that means… We need every resident to Ride the Light 50 times a year… to Break Even…
    if and only… they think they can build 15 miles for 5 Billion… when vegas only did 4 miles for 4 Billion…
    A remote pacific lsland… should be far cheaper… no skill workers or steel on island…… yeah right!
    Now… if you want to make some money…. buy options… on the Lite Rail Bonds…that they will goto to Junk Bond Status….
    Now You will make some… $$$$…I bet WallStreet… will!
    Replace—-> Las Vegas with Oahu… and that will be the Lite Rail Reality…
    Las Vegas Monorail files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
    Las Vegas: Monorail ridership drops nearly 12%
    Las Vegas: Monorail bonds fall to “junk” status
    Las Vegas Monorail: “Woeful” ridership prompts financial jitters
    Las Vegas Monorail extension plans in doubt after FTA nixes funding
    Las Vegas Monorail: More technical limitations coming to light?
    Seattle and Las Vegas monorails reopen
    Las Vegas eyes light rail, other options for interurban service
    Las Vegas monorail…Shrink-wrap ads removed?
    Las Vegas Monorail shut down
    Las Vegas Monorail: Troublesome Technology in a Unique “Niche” Application

  3. One thing that’s important to note is that this is a preliminary vote to allow public hearing on the issue. The final vote isn’t until June 4th.

  4. $9,000,000,000…are you kidding me? And those city counsil members who voted stongly for this measure, how much of that $9,000,000,000 is going into their pockets. Nestor Gracias pockets must have a hole in it…

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