Djou: Fed ruling on Oahu rail line narrows city's options - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Djou: Fed ruling on Oahu rail line narrows city's options

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Mayoral candidate Charles Djou blames the Federal Transit Administration for leaving the city no option but to build an elevated heavy rail system to Ala Moana.

"This system is grossly mismanaged and the FTA is not leaving our community with any other choices or alternatives," Djou said, adding that he has now tabled his ideas to build some of the track at ground level, use a bus rapid transit system instead of trains or end the rail project at Middle Street.

He said he's not scrapping those ideas because he think an elevated train is the best option, because the FTA is demanding it.

"We are billions of dollars over budget. We are years behind schedule and now we have no choices. We have no alternatives," Djou said. "We are going to have to do this."

But Hawaii News Now political analyst Colin Moore said it appears Djou is "flip-flopping" on his earlier stances, and he thinks that could harm Djou politically in his race against incumbent Kirk Caldwell.

"Really, his big claim in this race is that he's the rail skeptic," Moore said. "ow he doesn't have that to go to the voters with."

Earlier this week, the FTA told city officials Oahu's rail route would have to be built all the way to Ala Moana. If the city changes its plans or the type of system it's building, the city would lose $1.5 billion in federal money, the FTA warned.

Djou faults the project's leaders for putting the city in a bind.

"We're going to have to build this rail system and we're going to have to build it out to Ala Moana because the alternative is to return billions of dollars that our community simply does not have," he said.

Meanwhile, the Caldwell campaign is criticizing Djou's new stance, saying he's "never had a firm position on any of his own transit proposals, and has bounced between them under the excuse of 'being open to all ideas.'"

"The only person surprised by the FTA's position seems to be Charles Djou," added campaign chair Lex Smith.

Djou disagrees. 

"The mayor put us in this position. I am running for mayor to get us out of this hole that the mayor put us in," he said.

If elected, Djou added, he would only seek an extension of the half percent general excise tax surcharge if the city had no other alternatives and only after an audit of the rail project's finances.

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