What’s Good for Us… Not the FTA? 30 Years into the Future with Honolulu Rail

Panos Prevedouros, PHD
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BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD – I know you are busy this holiday season and you are fed up with rail info but you really cannot afford to ignore the state’s financial report on the rail.

Here is your brief.


The purpose of the report is not to say whether rail is good or not. The report explains what the proposed rail will cost and how it compares to others. The decision is ours.

First it’s important to mention the impeccable reputation and expert subject knowledge of the primary authors of the report prepared by Infrastructure Management Group, Inc.

Steve Steckler is a Harvard University planner and chairman of IMG with past service in the U.S. DOT. Thomas Rubin is a mass transit consultant who’s served as Controller-Treasurer of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, now known as Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Let me highlight three points from the report which took a comprehensive 30 year look into the project.

(1) Of the 43 projects listed for federal funding, the only projects with larger dollar values are the New York Long Island Rail Road, and the New Jersey Access which was recently cancelled by New Jersey’s governor due to its cost overruns.

Honolulu which ranks 54th in population vies to develop a New York or New Jersey sized rail project.

This will not play well in Congress. Remember the Bridge to Nowhere? This is Heavy Rail on Tinyisle.

(2) Hannemann and Carlisle keep saying that FTA does internal and external fiscal investigations and when they give the OK, all is well with the project.  Not true.

FTA reviews are for the protection of the federal interest. They place all risk of cost overruns or revenue shortfalls on local taxpayers. FTA minimizes the risk to them, not the risk to you.

(3) I believe the conservative numbers of IMG much more than the advocacy numbers of the rail proponents.

IMG’s best case scenario says that rail over 30 years will cost us $310 million per year.

IMG’s worst case scenario says that rail over 30 years will cost us $483 million per year.

These scenarios are a lot of money but really how high are these for Honolulu?

The entire Capital Improvement Budget for fiscal year 2005 for our city was $300 million.

So even under the best case scenario, if we build rail, for the taxes we pay, the city cannot build anything. For 30 years.

Now you know what your New Year’s resolution should be 🙂

P.S.1 — From the comments in the Star Advertiser:  Hold your fingers 1 inch apart. Based on the current budget of $6 Billion dollars, every inch of this train will cost $4500 to build. $4500 PER INCH. Please someone explain to me how this is wise or even possible. For every foot of this project, you could send a kid to college for 4 years.

P.S. 2 Funny how people get it right but then elect the wrong people. Just check the poll below.

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