Dear Pres­i­dent Trump,

The Washington Post - - ECONOMY & BUSINESS -

As a life­long Demo­crat and former Gov­er­nor of Hawaii, I op­posed your can­di­dacy. I must ad­mit, how­ever, that you are on the right track scru­ti­niz­ing waste­ful spend­ing on pork bar­rel projects.

Mas­sive cost over­runs and in­flated rid­er­ship pro­jec­tions are the norm in rail projects, but Honolulu’s 20-mile el­e­vated rail sys­tem tops them all. Ini­tially es­ti­mated to cost $5.28 bil­lion, the pro­jected con­struc­tion cost is now $10 bil­lion or $500 mil­lion per mile, the most costly in the world.

City of­fi­cials ini­tially promised that rail would re­duce the cur­rent level of traf­fic con­ges­tion dra­mat­i­cally. How­ever, the Fi­nal En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact State­ment con­cluded that rail would re­duce traf­fic con­ges­tion by less than 2% and that “traf­fic con­ges­tion will be worse in the fu­ture with rail than what it is today (with­out rail).”

Cur­rently, the City does not have the funds to com­plete the 20-mile sys­tem, fall­ing at least $3 bil­lion short and six years be­hind sched­ule.

How did this de­ba­cle hap­pen? Frankly, like Alaska’s in­fa­mous “Bridge to Nowhere,” Honolulu’s rail project was driven more by pol­i­tics than by ob­jec­tive en­gi­neer­ing and plan­ning.

The rail project ex­ists today mainly be­cause the FTA buck­led un­der pres­sure from U.S. Se­na­tor Daniel K. Inouye who was then chair­man of the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee. The pow­er­ful chair­man fa­mously de­clared “it would take World War III to stop the rail project!” Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion Ray LaHood praised Inouye as its “ab­so­lute lynch­pin”.

In­ter­nal emails among FTA staff re­vealed there was much doubt and cyn­i­cism about rail and the City’s multi-mil­lion-dol­lar pub­lic re­la­tions cam­paign. Yet the FTA did noth­ing and is now on the verge of pro­vid­ing the re­main­ing $800 mil­lion of the $1.5 bil­lion grant.

Honolulu’s rail project does not de­serve a sin­gle dol­lar more from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. It has be­come a poster boy for how pol­i­tics, in­com­pe­tence, dis­in­for­ma­tion and out­right lies are at the root of waste­ful rail projects which do lit­tle for the pub­lic ex­cept raise taxes.

The FTA should ter­mi­nate its Full Fund­ing Grant Agree­ment with the City, keep the $800 mil­lion, and use it for a wor­thy tran­sit project. This would re­quire the City to se­ri­ously con­sider some of the less costly al­ter­na­tives to com­ple­ment the rail sys­tem.

You and I met in 1998 when your Miss Uni­verse Pageant was held in Honolulu. I re­call you com­mented on the beauty of Honolulu and how you felt it was the per­fect venue for the pageant. The rail project plans in­clude seven mas­sive el­e­vated rail sta­tions 50-60 feet high and the 35 foot high el­e­vated rail line through the heart of down­town Honolulu. If built, this will change the beauty and am­bi­ence of the city for­ever.



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