Still Hope for Rail Critics

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BY MALIA HILL – Call it Hawaii’s future “Bridge to Nowhere.”  Not that no one would ever use the proposed Honolulu Rail.


Just that the mind-bogglingly expensive project that is destined to burden the state treasury with cost overruns in the billions of dollars is almost certain to go down in history with other famous inflated, expensive Transportation projects of questionable utility.

Or do you have faith that the government never spends tons of money to small effect?  If so, perhaps you should go wander through the spending record at

We’re told that it will create jobs.  But is anyone measuring the economic drain that it will cause on our economy?  The added tax burden?

Sometimes, when I hear, “it will create jobs,” I just want to point out that we could also cut state taxes or hand out those billions to entrepreneurs starting local businesses, or any one of a thousand things that will also help create jobs.

The promise of creating jobs is not a legitimate excuse for every piece of large-scale government spending that worms its way into the budget.  Especially when so few are looking at the unseen costs.

Anyway, despite the fact that the project has cleared the environmental hurdles and the city plans to start construction within a few months, critics of the rail are not giving up hope.  They caution the state that the new Republican Congress may have second thoughts about funding the project, leaving Hawaii stuck with the entire bill.

If that happens, expect the outer islands to raise a fuss about the inevitable tax and budget issues that will follow the project.  After all, the fact that he can take the rail from Kapolei to Ala Moana is going to be of little use to a guy getting up for work in Hilo.





  1. aloha malia…I am encouraged reading your piece. However, it’s not clear to me that your message means to discourage further peaceful protest, or renew hope in our efforts to “STOP DA’ RAIL”! The sentence,”leaving hawai’i stuck with the entire bill” seems to say that this project WILL go through no matter if the feds fund it or not. Educate US on that. I’m thinking that IF the feds don’t fund this, then the project will die like its supporters. True?
    On another note, the idea that this project can be forced upon the majority of citizens that disagree with it, and are NOT GIVEN the choice in a referendum, IS NOT a “democracy” but dictatorial! Do you agree?

    • Thank you for your comments and for being aware and active on this issue. I agree with you that the short-sighted political maneuvering that results in decisions like the rail project make me question our state’s political leadership. We need to do more to hold politicians accountable if we want them to be more attentive to our objections.

      The rail issue itself–the funding questions, lawsuit and contract awards–is complicated, and to some extent, no one knows for certain what will happen. What’s unmistakable is that having begun to move forward on the project, we have already committed ourselves to quite a bit of spending. If the lawsuit (or lack of funds, or any number of things) stop or merely delay the project, the state will still have invested untold millions in the effort.

      There are a few articles here on Hawaii Reporter that discuss the issue more that you might be interested in:
      Malia Zimmerman’s overview of the challenges to the Rail project –

      Greg Wiles on the federal budget issues – on the city awarding rail contracts –

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