Rail Consultant Defends Report

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BY JIM DOOLEY – The state-paid consultant that studied Honolulu’s rail transit project has disputed Mayor Peter Carlisle’s description of its work as shoddy and biased.

Steve Steckler, chairman of Infrastructure Management Group, Inc., said his company’s analysis of the Honolulu project “was intended to be constructive” and was developed independently and without a pre-determined outcome.

“We do not second-guess the City’s decision to develop a rail line, nor do we conclude that it is financially infeasible,” Stckler wrote in an email.

“Rather, we conclude simply that the current financial plan should be improved and that the City will need additional local financial resources to complete and operate the rail system,” Steckler said.

The study, commissioned by outgoing Gov. Linda Lingle at a cost of $350,000, projected that city tax revenues might fall as much as $1.7 billion short of the estimated ultimate price tag of $5.2 billion. IMG also said the City’s ridership estimates might be too high.

Carlisle said Friday that a “prominent member” of the IMG team, Thomas Rubin, is “a nationally-known anti-rail activist.”

“It is no surprise the report is a pre-determined anti-rail rant,” the mayor said.

Steckler said Rubin was hired by IMG as a sub-consultant “to review the rail project’s operating plan and the experience of other rail projects.”

Rubin’s work was not part of IMG’s financial analysis, according to Steckler.

The IMG report’s financial figures “exend” earlier concerns about the Honolulu rail project that were identified in a 2009 consultant report written for the Federal Transit Administration, Steckler said.

IMG was “left alone” by the Lingle administration when it was preparing its report, according to Steckler.

IMG has worked closely with Parsons Brinckerhoff, the prime engineering consultant for the Honolulu rail project, on other studies, said Steckler.

“We regard Parsons Brinckerhoff’s work on the (Honolulu) rail project as nothing less than professional,” Steckler continued.

“ We only wish that we had had unfettered access to them as part of our review,” he added.

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