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Rail and the Special Session

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

On July 14th, I hosted a forum at the Capitol Auditorium for an alternative to the bankrupt rail project. brought three planning experts to Hawaii to discuss the benefits of Rail Option 2A.

The Federal Transit Authority required HART to develop a Recovery Plan to analyze the cost of completing the project as proposed (Plan A), and then to compare several alternatives that would bring the project into downtown Honolulu within the existing budget. One alternative, not fully studied by HART is “Option 2A: Build to Middle Street as planned and continue with at-grade rail system.”

Vukan Vuchic, Doug Tilden and Gary Andrishak each have more than 35 years of experience in transportation engineering, planning and policies. They have worked around the world on transit systems in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. They presented compelling reasons why the rail system would be more functional at grade through Town and redesigning the system now could save billions of dollars, be completed faster, and be more easily expanded to UH and Waikiki in the future.

With the proposed modifications, it may be possible to complete a more useful rail system in Honolulu without having to raise additional taxes. The project is already contracted to Middle Street and that construction will take four years. We have time to consider alternatives from Middle Street forward. I encourage readers to check out with an open mind.

A special session of the Legislature is scheduled to begin August 28; however, no agreement between House and Senate Leaders has been reached on just what tax scheme will be proposed. Funding scenarios include an extension of the existing county surcharge, making the half-percent tax permanent state-wide, a surcharge on the Transient Accommodation Tax charged on Oahu or statewide, and combinations of these options.

A special session may last five days. Hearings will be scheduled in the respective houses as the legislation moves along, so there will be opportunities to voice your opinion through public testimony.

I opposed the rail tax extension in 2015 because HART had not demonstrated any ability to restrain cost overruns, nor would they consider any modifications to get back on budget. Obviously, the situation has worsened and the City is back again only two years after promising the last extension was final. I still oppose throwing endless money at Plan A.

Many people who called the Governor about Laniakea have been told to call DOT. DOT is already aware of the problem. We need to continue to impress the Governor’s office with our polite, yet persistent calls each Monday. One phone call is not going to get the job done. If you are tired of the Laniakea traffic situation, you should call 586-0034 on Monday mornings between 10 am and noon. Remember to be polite when you Call the Governor Mondays.

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