Local Connection: Rail Deal Reached

Our legislature did what it promised last week – coming up with enough money to build the Oahu rail project all the way to Ala Moana. Or at least we hope it's enough money.

Both sources – the added hotel tax and the excise tax surcharge – will expire in 13 years. Who really can predict what other twists and turns the rail will face in that time?

Meanwhile, it's time to get serious about the other elephant in the room – the annual cost to operate the system.

It's expected the bus and rail system will need well over $100 million a year from taxpayers for costs beyond the income from the fare box. The Mayor brought that up last week when he was asked whether he was finally going to seriously consider other sources of revenue, like getting money from developers and property owners along the line. He didn't hold out much hope for a big money there.

But time is short. HART is scheduled to begin operations between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium in three years.

No one says this out loud, but it is likely that once the train is running and people are using it, city leaders will come back to ask once again that the excise tax surcharge for rail be extended indefinitely.

But it's likely by the time the tax is ready to expire – lawmakers will have their own plans for that money.

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