City releases portion of rail report
POSTED: Friday, October 31, 2008
The city's proposed 20-mile rail transit system will cost $200 million more than the original price tag of $3.7 billion and is projected to reduce traffic congestion more than earlier reports estimated, according to a draft environmental impact statement released yesterday.
The Report's Highlights Include:
Costs (in 2008 dollars):
» $3.9 billion for Salt Lake route; $4.8 billion for Salt Lake and airport route
» 21 percent to 23 percent cut in traffic congestion in 2030
» 157 to 177 partial parcels could be acquired, which include land condemnations
» 34 or 35 parcels will be full acquisitions
» 20 residences, one church and 62 to 67 business could be relocated
» 18 to 23 residential buildings could have moderate noise
Source: City and County of Honolulu
On the Net:
But after adjusting for inflation, the project should cost about $5 billion, according to the report.
City Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka said the report, expected to be released online during the weekend, validates the need for the rail transit system to alleviate the growing gridlock in Honolulu.
"(The report) doesn't say anything remarkably new," Yoshioka said. "These are things we've been saying all along. All it does is validate what we've shown in the alternatives analysis."
The draft environmental impact statement, which totals about 300 pages, is required by the Federal Transit Administration for the project to move forward.
Originally, the city projected the rail project would reduce traffic by 11 percent, but the draft report now says congestion is expected to decrease by 21 to 23 percent in 2030.
The city has long used $3.7 billion as the cost of the system, but that number is in 2006 dollars. Adding in inflation, the system will cost $3.9 billion in today's dollars for the chosen route running to Salt Lake. For a route going to the airport, it would cost $4.8 billion in current dollars.
The city is also confident it will have the necessary funds to complete the system using a 0.5 percent surcharge to the general excise tax. The city expects to collect $4.1 billion through 2022 from the tax and $1.2 billion in federal contributions.
"Our cost estimate includes a nearly $1 billion contingency to address these cost changes," Mayor Mufi Hannemann said in a statement. "Additionally, we believe that the current economic slowdown may result in lower construction costs and I remain confident that we have the funds to build this project."
The timing of the report's release comes days before Tuesday's general election, when Oahu voters will decide the fate of the system on the ballot.
The city received approval from federal officials to release the document on Wednesday afternoon but has not yet disseminated the full report.
"We have nothing to hide," Yoshioka said.
Rail opponenets say this is further eveidence taxpayers cannot afford a rail transit system
But with many voters already rushing to the polls for early voting or turning in absentee ballots, the report might have little impact on their vote on the rail transit system.
In a mayor's race that will likely be largely driven by the rail transit issue, mayoral candidate City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi used the report's release as another attack on Hannemann.
"If they got the draft EIS yesterday, within 15 minutes the rest of us should have gotten a copy," said Kobayashi, who introduced a mass-transit solution of elevated highways called "EZWay." "We all deserve the truth. It's just not fair (for voters). We can't keep fooling the taxpayers."
Two of Hawaii's congressional leaders, who support rail transit, said the report should not affect the vote for the system on Tuesday.
"The EIS doesn't have anything to do with whether you are for rail transit or not," said U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. "It doesn't have much to do with whether you are for rail transit or EZWay or highways."
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said, "If (the city) held on to it until after the elections, that would be different. I think they are doing the right thing."