Group Questions Cost of Rail Realignment

Randall Roth
Randall Roth

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group suing to stop rail has a new complaint. It alleges it cost taxpayers a lot of money to realign the route off Aolele Street because the original path put the rail line too close to protected airspace around the Honolulu International Airport.

"If a mistake was made that cost the taxpayers $29 million, we don't think the taxpayers should pay that," law professor Randall Roth said.

He wants Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle to investigate the alignment change.

Roth, former governor Ben Cayetano, Walter Heen and Cliff Slater are suing the city and the Federal Transit Administration to force a study of alternatives to rail. Their Aolele Street complaint alleges improper relationships among rail officials and Parsons Brinckerhoff, the engineering firm involved in the rail project.

"Because of these conflicts of interest, we're not so sure that it has been investigated or would be but for our calling for it," Roth said.

In a written statement to Hawaii News Now, Carlisle said the conflict of interest accusation regarding Parsons Brinckerhoff is not new and has been alleged by Slater since 2007.

"The same issue was specifically raised and vetted during the Transportation Services Director's confirmation hearings before the City Council in 2008 and earlier this year. On both occasions, no ethical violation was ever determined and the director's appointment was confirmed," he said.

Carlisle said the City Council voted to route the project near the airport in 2009, and the $29 million estimated cost to change the alignment was accommodated within the project contingency.

"It is incorrect and inflammatory to label the increase as 'negligence' or a 'mistake' when the purpose of the preliminary engineering phase was to identify this type of issue," he said.

But City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said she'll look into the complaint.

"I can do a resolution asking for an investigation. I don't know if it'll have a hearing but I will certainly try," she said.

"You need to be skeptical," Roth said. "You need to take a hard look to make sure that everybody is doing the job they're paid to do. If they screw up, the cost of fixing it ought to be born by them rather than the taxpayer."

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