Local Connection: Rail Woes - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Local Connection: Rail Woes

By: Rick Blangiardi

During the controversy over the construction of our rail transit project the past few years, critics said the price tag would never come in at the budgeted amount. But this early into the project?

There are serious questions at the city and state levels about the cost with the current 5.2-billion dollar project now exceeding 6 billion dollars.

The new shortfall amount is about $900 million and because of soaring construction costs and lower-than-expected tax revenues, talk is turning toward the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation borrowing up to $350 million in short-term bonds just to make it through the summer. The city would need to approve that loan.

Mayor Caldwell and the city council correctly don't want to use money reserved for bus service and repair, including the Handi-van, but without those funds, something will have to be done.

That's the short-term problem. The long-term problem is whether or not to extend the city's half-percent excise tax beyond its current limit in 2022.

There's also talk about reducing costs along the rail line, including delaying the construction of a parking lot along the route with other cutbacks. There are many reasons to become concerned about this project, even though some of increased costs are due to environmental challenges to the rail project.

Nevertheless, all of us who are paying the taxes toward rail need better assurances of what is needed and how much higher costs are going to rise. hart and the city are starting to prove its critics right.

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