Rail critics appeal to Trump administration in bid to seek alternatives

Rail opponents appeal to Trump administration in bid to seek alternatives

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some are calling it a Hail Mary pass: Rail critics are now lobbying Donald Trump's transition team and Republicans in Congress to conduct an alternative analysis on Oahu's rail project.

"(The city) has botched this so badly thus far," said University of Hawaii Law Professor and rail critic Randy Roth. "Already, we're projected to have the highest cost overrun in the history of rail projects in the United States of America."

Construction costs for the beleaguered rail project have soared nearly 83 percent, from $5.2 billion to over $9.5 billion.

And those rising costs, Roth said, are prompting members of the Trump team to take a close look at Honolulu's project.

The cost overruns exceed the next costliest system, which is in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where costs overruns were about 78 percent.

"I would be surprised if the new Federal Transit Administration does not take a very long, hard look at our rail project," Roth said. "I will be surprised if the Congressional Committee on Transportation doesn't take a hard look at this."

But rail supporters say alternatives have already been studied and another review will only add costs.

"Any delay would cost us seven to ten million dollars a month. To have to go through another alternatives analysis would take a year, if not two years to complete. And that would run us in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars," said City Council Budget Committee Chairman Joey Manahan.

"I think it's a last ditch effort to try to basically kill the project."

Meanwhile, Mayor Kirk Caldwell has said he believes Trump's promise to invest in the nation's transportation system bodes well for Honolulu's rail project.

But Hawaii's two senators have been highly critical of Trump, potentially inviting payback.

"I think it would be tough for the federal government to remove funding, but I think they could become much more critical of what's gone on with the rail project. There could be another cost benefit analysis," said University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Colin Moore.

"It's difficult to say because Donald Trump is a very unpredictable person."

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