Minnesota voters could have impacted Honolulu's rail project - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Minnesota voters could have impacted Honolulu's rail project

Jim Oberstar Jim Oberstar
Sen. Dan Inouye Sen. Dan Inouye
Toru Hamayasu Toru Hamayasu
Cliff Slater Cliff Slater

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Not many people in Hawaii were paying close attention to the results of Minnesota's 8th congressional district, but its ripple effects could reach clear across the Pacific.

On election night 36 year congressional veteran Jim Oberstar lost his bid for re-election.  He was the chair of the transportation committee and a big supporter of Honolulu's rail project.  Now Republican John Mica is expected to take over.  He says he's in favor of cost effective rail transportation but Republicans campaigned on cutting costs and smaller government, so where does Honolulu's $5.5 billion rail fit into that?

"I would hope that the Republicans realize that for this nation to function appropriately we need transportation that is not only speedy but effective," said Sen. Dan Inouye, (D) Hawaii, Appropriations Committee Chair.

The senate narrowly kept its majority which means Senator Inouye is still in charge of appropriating money.  He says federal money will still be there for the Honolulu rail project, but he also says, "Nothing is guaranteed."

"We're supposed to be the super nation. In rail transit we're behind Mexico. If that's what they want I suppose that's what the people want," said Sen. Inouye.

Without federal money the project cannot get done.  Still the city is counting on nearly $1.5 billion in federal funding even without it's conductor in Congress.

"Technically yes but at the same time with so much assurance from both administration and congressional support thus far that's the reason we have good reason to believe the money is going to be there," said Toru Hamayasu, Honolulu Transportation Services Deputy Director.  "To lose somebody like that it's really sad it's like losing a good friend.  In terms of federal funding I think the projects strength speaks for itself."

In Ohio and Wisconsin voters elected new governors that plan to stop their proposed rail projects.  That leaves Hawaii rail opponents to wish upon an Oberstar.

"Oberstar being gone is good news because there will be fresh eyes looking at the situation," said Cliff Slater, HonoluluTraffic.com.  "I would like to see it stopped because all it does is give us a project that is literally worthless."

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