Offering cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion in Honolulu

March 31, 2008.

Council must be careful in what it funds in the new budget:

We do not believe that the City will eventually pass all the benchmarks necessary to get federal funding and begin service in 2012 as the Mayor is currently promising no matter how many past and present Parsons Brinckerhoff employees he imports into Honolulu to help him do it.

According to the financial plan (table 4-4) he presented to us, he needs $1.2 billion to make it work. He will not get that much. Even Rep. Oberstar, a bigger exaggerator than Rep. Abercrombie, could not bring himself to say more than $900 million; the FTA told the City $500 million.

The FTA turned down the $5 billion Washington DC Dulles Airport rail extension on two grounds. First, that it was not cost-effective and second, that the agency did not have sufficient experience to handle such a large and complex public works project. Is it credible that an agency that has difficulty filling potholes will be certified to do something that Washington DC cannot do?

No matter how much the Mayor spends on taxpayer-funded “outreach,” aka “hard sell,” the truth will out. Steel on steel is noisy, traffic congestion will be far worse with rail than it is today, and the effect on our economy, whether it eventually costs the $5 billion the City projects, or the much greater amount we project, it will be enormous.

As we have warned before, the greatest danger faced by taxpayers is that the Mayor will jump the gun and begin the construction phase with local taxpayer money before getting permission from the FTA to do so.

The practical politics of the matter are that once construction begins on transit projects, they are always finished — no matter how dumb they are. The average voter does not understand why you should not “throw good money after bad” and consequently, the Mayor having spent, say, $1 billion, building a line from East Kapolei to Waipahu, the voters will not want to “waste” that money and so will be easily convinced to complete the full line to UH.

What the Council must do is not fund the rail effort beyond the $96 million already budgeted for studies until we have all the details about all the supposed benefits and all the disadvantages. The major ones being what it will do to our taxes and that it will use up all the money needed to take care of traffic congestion.


ABC News: “The Rebirth of Buses: NY. to D.C.. for $1”:

A new bus line started service Thursday offering tickets on the well-traveled route for as low as $1 each way. The company, called BoltBus, is the latest in a series of supercheap bus lines across the country trying to woo travelers away from trains, planes and their own cars.

When the entrepreneurial spirit is involved this is the kind of innovation that shows up. New air-conditioned bus service between New York and Washington DC for a dollar. But there’s a slight catch … READ MORE


This is what you might call HOT Coffee:

We somehow missed retired USN Captain Jerry Coffee’s January 10 column in MIDWEEK titled, “The Truth about Tampa’s HOT lanes.” This is a well written column and you should be read in its entirety. His final paragraph sums it up,

“Folks, we can’t allow ourselves to be railroaded into paying for the mother of all white elephants that will not reduce gridlock. And of all the politicians who are looking to rail for their career “legacy,” few will be around when the economy hits the next inevitable down cycle and our taxes have to be increased again to subsidize a feel-good railroad, and we’re still bumper to bumper. Who will be held accountable? Don’t let it happen. The HOT option is still open. Call, FAX or e-mail your city councilmember now!”

We agree; here's how you do it: Contacting Officials

March 30, 2008.

Star-Bulletin: "Council wants review on transit":

If you looked carefully in today's Star Bulletin for the Police/Fire section, you would find this story:

"City Council members want the city auditor to examine two city contracts totaling $96.2 million for work on the elevated mass-transit system.

In a letter earlier this month, five Council members asked city Auditor Les Tanaka to review information on contractors and subcontractors that worked with engineering firm PB Americas.

PB Americas, formerly known as Parsons Brinckerhoff, got an $86 million contract for the upcoming preliminary engineering report and final environmental impact statement for the city's proposed $3.7 billion mass-transit system running from Kapolei to Ala Moana. They also were awarded $10.2 million to work on the draft environmental statement.

Council members Barbara Marshall, Romy Cachola, Donovan Dela Cruz, Ann Kobayashi and Charles Djou also introduced a measure to require the administration to show where 40 proposed transit stops will be located.

"It creates awareness and transparency," said Dela Cruz. "We need to be cognizant of the affected communities."

Council should also question bus ridership data:

The Utah Legislative Auditor recently reported that the Utah Transit Authority overstated Salt Lake City’s light rail TRAX ridership by 20 percent and used the “success” in riders to promote a new rail line. The response from the Authority was that:

“Ridership figures reported to the FTA and to other organizations were obtained from a common, accepted transit ridership counting methodology, which was the industry standard for many years, and as soon as more accurate [smart card] technology was available for obtaining ridership counts, UTA began to employ it."

What is interesting here is that the technology now used by TRAX was installed on TheBus a few years ago and then discontinued by Mayor Hannemann over the head of then Transportation Director Ed Hirata.

We questioned at the time that accurate knowledge of the real number of bus riders would not help the Mayor’s push for rail and may have been the real reason for discontinuing the Smart Card program. The Salt Lake City episode together with our Mayor’s actions raises some questions.

First, what is the actual bus ridership and what is the range of error given that the occasional survey methodology currently used cannot be that accurate? And second, what was the real reason for canceling the Smart Card technology?

The Council is asking the City Auditor to look at the City’s expenditures on the fixed guideway project to date since they cannot get any straight answers from the City Administration (see story above). While he is at, the City Auditor could look at these ridership issues.

March 28, 2008.

Waikiki Residents detail their opposition to rail:

In a letter sent today to Henry Eng, Director of the City's Department of Plans and Permitting, the Waikiki Area Residents Association spell out their opposition to the proposed rail line running along Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues. They sum it up in one paragraph in their covering letter:

"The Waikiki Area Residents Association (WRA) opposes the proposed rail system in its entirety. Our reasons fall generally in the area of ineffectiveness, extreme cost, and environmental consequences – social, physical, and economic. Those same reasons apply to any planned rail spur into Waikiki. The planned spur promises to harm Hawaii’s premier tourism resource."

Their concerns are well stated in that they compare the language used by the Hawaii Visitors to promote Waikiki and what Waikiki with rail will result in. READ MORE


Council Executive Matters Committee to hear TOD bills:

Next Wednesday, April 2, 2008, at 1:00 PM in the Second Floor Committee Room, the Council's Executive Matters Committee will hear several bills relating to Transit Oriented Development. As you know, TODs are essentially developer subsidies stemming from the subsidies needed to operate a rail line. READ MORE


Council's Transportation Committee to hear Bill 80 CD1 FD2:

The saga continues: Will they choose steel on steel alone or add rubber on concrete, or add maglev? To find out, the Transportation Committee will be hearing Bill 80 next Thursday, April 3, 2008, at 9:00 AM in the Second Floor Committee Room. Hopefully, this will get quite interesting. READ MORE


March 27, 2008.

A new tab added for the route alignment:

Check the tab named "Route alignment." We have imported the route map elements for the section from the Nimitz Interchange to UH. These are engineering drawings showing the height above ground for every part of the route. We will add the rest of the alignment out to Kapolei at a later date.


A little needed humor for today:

We all need a little humor when we are dealing with the City otherwise we would all go nuts. This is why Yiddish humor is so wonderful, it was spawned under highly adverse conditions such as we face in dealing with the city.

We all go to the trouble of footnoting the sources of the data we use and then some idiot tells us that cannot possibly be true because it doesn't feel right. Such putzes we have to deal with.

We submitted a protest letter recently to FTA and the Council on Environmental Quality and copied it to Thomas Rubin, one of the more erudite transportation consultants in the country. He replied with the following note:

"You know, the world has far too many people like you who, for some reason, want facts, logic, and ethics applied to what everyone knows is a really wonderful transportation project.

If you have still not had enough humor, try the cartoons tab at left.


March 26, 2008.

Prevedouros hits one out of the park:

Yesterday at the Capitol, Dr. Panos Prevedouros of the UH Engineering Dept. presented the results of a study performed by himself and 16 students on Oahu's traffic situation and what could be done about it. The essential result of the study was that a combination of High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, urban underpasses, and traffic signal light improvements, could improve traffic by 34 percent versus 3 percent for rail. Of course, as the City does with all of us that are opposed to rail, they will attack Professor Prevedouros personally rather than try to refute his facts or the science behind them. The study is here READ MORE followed by some of the media coverage below:



March 24, 2008.

Advertiser: "Rail could cost O'ahu more":

Sean Hao's reporting in today's Advertiser deserves to be read fully for a better understanding of why the project is likely to go over budget. Here are the opening paragraphs:

"If history is any indication, the $3.7 billion projected price tag for Honolulu's commuter rail system could climb before the project is finished in 2017.

"That's because rail construction projects across the country typically cost more than planned, according to various recent studies.

"While the city may not have much experience with railroads, taxpayers already know public works projects can cost much more than advertised." READ MORE


March 23, 2008.

REMINDER: OMPO says great public support for HOT lanes:

We ran this story two years ago but people have a tendency to forget so here it is again:

March 25, 2006 — OMPO has just released the results of a federally funded telephone survey of a random sample of 400 Oahu residents on transportation issues. All questions were designed by OMPO and its consultant team in consultation with Ward Research.

Among the more interesting questions asked were:

Q4a. Would you support construction of an elevated high-occupancy highway for carpools, vanpools, and buses from ‘Ewa to downtown along parts of Kamehameha Highway and H-1?

Overall 69% favor v. 25% opposed. Among Ewa/Leeward residents, 78% favor.

Q4b. If such a project were constructed, would you support making it a high-occupancy toll facility, called a HOT facility? This facility would allow solo drivers to use it if they pay a toll and if the lanes are not fully utilized by high-occupancy vehicles.

Overall 67% favor v. 28% opposed. Among Ewa/Leeward residents, 73% favor.

Q4c. Would you support construction of such a project if the tolls generated were not sufficient to cover the cost and it would require increased taxes?

Overall 29% favor v. 66% opposed.

Q4e. What is the most you would pay to use HOT lanes if it would save you 15 minutes in travel time? Would you pay...?

Overall 8% would pay $4 or more, Among Leeward/Ewa residents 20%.

This is a far less biased survey than the one OMPO took in November 2004. However, as we said then, the voters are generally unaware of the costs or benefits of the principal alternatives — rail transit or HOT lanes. Therefore, questions about taxes that do not quantify the tax impact on taxpayers, or the congestion benefits/disbenefits, cannot elicit accurate responses. Second, specifying 15 minutes as the time savings for HOT lanes is unrealistic; it is likely to be more like 30 minutes, or greater, during the rush hour.

An interesting general result of the survey is that it shows great public support for new highway facilities, such as HOT lanes and widening highways, particularly H-1 from Pearl City to Kahala. There is no support for bikeways. Clearly, our elected officials are out of sync with their constituents because the officials keep opting for bikeways and rejecting building highways whereas the voters think exactly the opposite. READ MORE

Skytrain noise unacceptable said BC Ombudsman:

The Ombudsman for British Columbia wrote three years after SkyTrain began running that, "The negative external effects of Skytrain currently include in some areas unacceptable noise levels, a harsh and forbidding presence, loss of privacy reduced property values and a depreciated enjoyment of individual and community lifestyle. The impact over time of these effects will include a gradual deterioration of the neighbourhoods with associated social and economic costs, a less desirable transportation system, and a loss of public regard for the Skytrain concept."

The Ombudsman's 28-page report is on the BC government website and should be read in full READ MORE

March 21, 2008.

Today's Advertiser editorial is incorrect:

The editorial says that wheel squeal “generally occurs where there are sharp turns — not anything anticipated in the Honolulu alignment.”

That statement is inaccurate. The proposed Honolulu rail line transitions from Halekauwila Street onto Ward Avenue — it is a right angle. It must then transition from Ward onto Waimanu Street — another right angle in a tight space. This was the route in the 1992 plan and any other will mean unacceptable condemnations.

The turn from Kapiolani onto University is about a 70 degree turn and the turn from University Avenue into the University itself is another 90 degree turn. There are other curves in the line of a less squeal-making type as the rail makes its way through town.

Two weeks ago we commissioned Vancouver sound engineers to record the SkyTrain noise. The noise registered 79 Db(A) at 50 feet. They recorded it 50 feet from the line in the Creekside Park area where there is a 65° gradual curve. This appears to be far more gradual than will be the case with many of the in-town line curves in Honolulu. The location and curve is shown here on GOOGLE MAPS

The Honolulu trains will run from 4:00AM to midnight daily. They will run every 3 minutes during the rush hours, every 6 minutes during the rest of the day and every 10 minutes during the late night hours. With trains in each direction, the intervals between trains will therefore average 1.5 minutes, 3 minutes and 5 minutes respectively. The following recorded a train in both directions.

Click the arrow to listen to it:

March 20, 2008.

Please welcome these new members aboard:

Listed in alphabetical order by first name:

B-Jay Luke

Cindy Johnstone

David Bellino

Ed Cassella

Eric Chun

Jack Heckerman

Jennifer Doran

Jo Ann Choi Pottberg

Kim Hudson Chock

John Marrack

Karen Hong

Larry Fung

Leilani Maguire

Lois Abrams

Michael Lilly

Ruth Pratt

Stacy Kaselonis

Stephanie Marrack

Latest economic and demographic data hurts transit project:

The fixed-guideway plan depends on projections made in 2006 and earlier to show that the ridership and revenues will allow the project to reach the cost-effectiveness standards required by the FTA; these are not working out in practice.

For example, population data released today by the U.S. Census shows that Oahu's population last year was 906,000, down slightly from the prior year. The city used the state forecast from the 2030 series and that projected a population of 928,000; that is a 22,000 shortfall. READ MORE

In addition, tax collections for future years are now anticipated by the Revenue Commission to be less than prior forecasts. READ MORE

Steel-on-steel rail falters at City Council meeting:

The City Council voted 5-4 last night to approve two floor drafts to Bill 80 to decide on the transit technology, FD-1 to include concurrent study of rubber tire on concrete options and FD-2 to include Maglev. The bill was then referred to the Transportation Committee for further consideration. During Council discussion of the bill, Transportation Chair Garcia said he would entertain all new serious transit proposals.

Councilmembers evidenced their concerns about rail noise and the city's huge outlays on selling rail transit to the voters. They also showed concern that a new company, Infraconsult LLC, whose management consists of former Parsons Brinckerhoff executives were given a $10 million contract for 30 months to manage the transit process.

Essentially, this is a major blow for steel-on-steel rail proponents since it re-opens the process to allow for other alternatives to be considered.


March 19, 2008.

Our take on the City's "outreach" at Farrington last night:

The city’s transit "outreach" meeting held at Farrington High School last night was interesting. It seemed that every current and past Parsons Brinckerhoff employee was there (billing at $150-$200 per hour) together with any city employee who has anything to do with transit from Mayor Hannemann on down. They must have put a sizable dent in their $4.4 million dollar "outreach" budget just last night.

In its formal presentation, the city showed a major change in its scheduling that seemed to go unnoticed. The Mayor has been saying that the first phase would be up and running by 2012 even though the financial plan showed that not happening until 2019.

Last night the City’s presentation showed that they were back to the 2019 date to begin operations on the 20-mile line, and 2021 for the balance of the 34 mile full alignment. There was no mention of 2012. Even so they showed that “Vehicle Procurement” would begin in 2008. That could mean that either the East Kapolei to Waipahu “Shoppers’ Special” is still in play, but they do not want to talk about it, or because of the complexity of making the new changes, this detail was overlooked. We will never know.

In discussing rail transit noise, the City showed the decibel level at 50 feet as 72-80, which is up from their requirement in the recent Request for Information process when they used 75 as the maximum. The 80 is a better number since a recent recording performed for us by Vancouver professional sound engineers showed decibel levels for the SkyTrain as 79.5 at 50 feet. HEAR RAIL NOISE

The City tried to downplay the noise with a recording of general traffic noise taken from the curb of the bus lane which runs about 150 feet away from the SkyTrain. Of course, bus noises at 2 feet drown out rail noise at 150 feet. This attempt to spin the noise issue was laughable.

Let's hope we do not have to sit through too much more of these "outreach" pitches; there's only so much you can take of it.

March 16, 2008.

City Council to hear the "technology bill" and related issues:

This coming Wednesday at 2:00PM the City Council will consider two versions of Bill 80 to determine the technology. One Bill 80 (2006), CD1 calls for steel-wheel-on-steel-rail and the other (Bill 80 (2006), Proposed CD1, FD1) calls for two technologies to be studied, the steel on steel together with rubber tire on concrete. If the latter version passes then both rail and bus options would be considered in the EIS and Preliminary Engineering.

Immediately preceding Bill 80 are a number of bills and resolutions relating to Unsmart Growth and property tax exemptions for developers. It promises to be an interesting afternoon. For details of the day's hearings and the precise details of the bill and resolutions, you can READ MORE (bottom of the page).


March 13, 2008.

FHWA issues its latest report on toll lanes:

The latest report is for the 4th quarter of 2007 and covers existing and prospective variably priced highway facilities of all kinds. READ MORE

March 12, 2008.

Star-Bulletin: "West Oahu residents take issue with transit":

Yesterday's S-B story was about the City's Kapolei "Informational Meeting." The S-B reported:

"About 50 residents of West Oahu questioned Mayor Mufi Hannemann Monday night about the proposed steel rail technology for Honolulu's mass-transit system, saying the $3.8 billion rail system would end up costing more.

Richard Hanson, a 59-year-old fisherman who works out of Pier 37, said prior to the informational meeting that he was concerned about the costs, including maintenance and how the city would obtain some parcels of land. He also said it should service the airport and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

"It's not going to solve the traffic problems," he said. "I'm not an expert, but I don't think the mayor is either."

"I think people should vote on this rather than having them reach into my pocket," he said. "Every tax they hoist upon me, I have to pay. I can't pass it along." READ MORE

Another word on the effects of noise:

One of our alert readers submitted the following they found in a treatise on noise:

"According to Echo's "Power Blower Operators Manual," everyone within 50 feet of a blower in use [75dBA @ 50 feet] should be wearing hearing, eye, and breathing protection ...

"Noise - Effects on the General Public: In 1980, the World Health Organization and United Nations jointly sponsored a report, "Environmental Health Criteria 12. Noise," which contained "the collective views of an international group of experts." The report listed a variety of health effects, both on workers in noisy industries and for populations in noisy living environments. Based on the evidence reviewed and the opinions of these experts, the report recommended these community noise levels:

"For good speech intelligibility, noise levels of less than 45 dB(A)…

"[To avoid] sleep disturbance…a bedroom noise limit of 35 dB(A)…

"General daytime noise levels of less than 55 dB(A)[to prevent] significant community annoyance…

"To meet sleep criteria… [an outdoor level of] 45 dB(A)"

Honolulu third worst road conditions in the U.S.:

TRIP, the Washington DC-based national transportation research group, released a report today on the condition of the nation's roads. It found that Honolulu's road conditions were the third worst among all U.S. urban areas over 500,000 population. The condition of our roads also proved to be costly to local motorists. It cost them an additional $760 annually per car through accelerated vehicle depreciation, increased frequency of needed maintenance and increased fuel consumption. READ MORE

March 11, 2008.

San Francisco's BART extension to the airport failing:

The San Francisco Chronicle ran the following story about six months ago:

"Prior to construction, BART projected there would be 17,800 average daily boardings to and from the airport by the year 2010. During the first year of operation that began in 2003, there were 5,864 daily boardings, the second year 6,675, and the third year 7,116. While there has been ridership growth -- 14 percent after the first year and 7 percent after the second -- it's unlikely the 2010 projection will be met.

"Likewise, ridership to and from the three other stations on the airport extension route -- in South San Francisco, San Bruno and Millbrae -- have not met expectations since opening at the same time.

"The forecast for the Millbrae Station, for instance, anticipated 33,000 trips on an average weekday by 2010. The number now is about 6,400." READ MORE

Mayor admits Downtown does not want rail:

Today's Advertiser reports the following:

"Opponents of rail, [Mayor Hannemann] said, primarily live outside of West O'ahu."They don't know what it's like to experience gridlock on this side of the island seven days a week," Hannemann said.

Another reason the East Kapolei-Waipahu leg was picked to be the first portion built, he said, was because "if we tried to build in the Downtown urban corridor (first), we would never get started. It would be in the courts every other week fighting with landowners, what have you, those who don't want to see rail occur or those who want to charge the city mucho bucks for a right-of-way."

On the west side, he said, "we have willing and supportive landowners and developers and I figure, for the most part, a very strong and supportive constituent base that wants us to do this. And so my feeling is this: Build it out on the west side ... and keep pushing it out."

OUR COMMENT:The Mayor's comments are in line with our story (See March 3, below) about him implying that he will go it alone without federal funds. To repeat what we said on March 9: "The Mayor apparently intends to build the rail line from Kapolei to Waipahu without federal funding and begin operating in 2012. The danger here is that if he does this before getting the requisite FTA approvals they will yank all the funding. We taxpayers will be left with an absurd stub line having spent all the income, and some, from the tax increase 2007-2012 to build it and have no further funds — unless he has another tax increase in mind." READ MORE

March 9, 2008.

Mayor calls Community Update Meetings for steel-on-steel:

March 10, 2008 6:30-8:30 pm Kapolei Middle School

March 13, 2008 6:30-8:30 pm Alvah Scott Elementary 98-1230 Moanalua Road Aiea

March 17, 2008 6:30-8:30 pm Waipahu Elementary Cafeteria 94-1211 Farrington Hwy Waipahu

March 18, 2008 6:30-8:30 pm Farrington High School 1564 N. King Street Honolulu


Mayor's new way to rush project will cost taxpayers dearly:

The Mayor apparently intends to build the rail line from Kapolei to Waipahu without federal funding and begin operating in 2012. The danger here is that if he does this before getting the requisite FTA approvals they will yank all the funding. We taxpayers will be left with an absurd stub line having spent all the income, and some, from the tax increase 2007-2012 to build it and have no further funds — unless he has another tax increase in mind. READ MORE

March 8, 2008.

Rep. Cabanilla says it all in new op/ed:

In simultaneous op/eds in both the Star-Bulletin and HawaiiReporter.com titled Oahu Needs a New Highway to Ease Congestion, Rep. Rida Cabanilla, D-Ewa, says "Hawaii must get back into the highway-building business. Until this simple directive is acknowledged, expect the transportation crisis on Oahu to worsen." We could not have said it better ourselves. As we have said, we do not have a serious public transportation problem; we have a serious shortage of highway space. She is also critical of the State DOT, as we have been, for its anti-highway positions. READ MORE


Cyber Pizza, Round 2, this coming Tuesday:

The Pro's and the Con's of the Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project, Part Two, The Cons, Panos D. Prevedouros replies!

On Tuesday, March 4, Simon Zweighaft and Kenneth (Toro) Tamayashi presented the case for the steel on steel train to a highly informed and very inquisitive audience. On Tuesday, March 11, Panos Prevedouros will present the other side of the discussion. READ MORE


March 7, 2008.

Vancouver SkyTrain noise now available on line:

We have had a professional recording engineer take several recordings of the Vancouver SkyTrain. HEAR MORE


City launches "On the Move" on the Mike Buck Show:

Starting yesterday, the City has bought a weekly hour of time on KHVH 830 AM for a new program titled, On the Move. It will air live, with call ins, on Tuesdays from 3:00-4:00 PM. Participants yesterday were Deputy Transportation Director Toru Hamayasu, Former Parsons Brinckerhoff executive Simon Zweighaft (now a managing partner with InfraConsult LLC), and former Council member John DeSoto.

With totally straight faces, the City folks tell us that this expense is necessary to correct misinformation that is out in the community. As an example, Toru Hamayasu at a meeting on Tuesday was asked whether it was true that traffic congestion in the future would be worse than it is today — even with rail. An attendee quotes him as replying, "That is a misleading statement. The anti-railers have been using that but it's not true. In the AA study, we compared the effects of each of the alternatives and rail had the best result of all the alternatives. The traffic will not be better than it is today, but because of the growth in the corridor, it'll be a lot better than if we did nothing, or if we built managed lanes."

In other words, we guess he is saying that traffic will be worse, but it is misleading to say so. This radio program is really going to straighten us out.


March 5, 2008.

Dave Shapiro nails the City and PB's dirty tricks:

On Monday, the Advertiser's Dave Shapiro posted the following on his Volcanic Ash blog:

"A fast ride to political glory — It's getting difficult to follow the bouncing subway token as the city rushes at breakneck speed to get started on its $3.7 billion rail transit system from Kapolei to Honolulu. For three years, Mayor Mufi Hannemann has issued dire warnings that taking our time with decisions to be certain we make the right choices would put federal funding at risk.

"Now that he's achieved his mad dash through vital decisions — a city panel selected steel wheels on steel rail technology after less than a month of deliberations — the mayor doesn't want to wait for federal funding to start building.

"He's proposing to begin construction on the first phase between Kapolei and Leeward Community College next year and finish it by 2012, even though the federal government isn't expected to decide whether to provide funding or how much until 2011.

"It could cost local taxpayers as much as $948 million more if the feds decline to participate after the money is spend.

"The mayor needs to get his story straight: Either federal funding is vital to this project or it's not. A reckless rush through due diligence and prudent decision-making procedures only serves to increase the chances of bad choices and wasted money.

"The leg between Kapolei and LCC is minimally useful, and the only apparent point to getting it finished at any cost by 2012 is so Hannemann can make the political boast that he got something built before the end of his second term."

OUR COMMENT:There were many highly critical comments on this post by anonymous responders but (somehow) Dave Shapiro traced their origins to City and Parsons Brinckerhoff servers. Is there nothing they won't do? It is certainly immoral but using the City's servers for this, is it even legal? READ MORE

March 3, 2008.

Mayor implies he will go it alone with rail:

Yesterday's Advertiser story on rail carried remarks by the Mayor implying that he might go without the FTA funds. He is quoted as saying, "To wait for your (federal) full funding grant approval to be finalized, it will take a lot longer for construction to begin. The best thingthat we can do is build it as quick as we can."

Sean Hao's story discussed the dangers of beginning construction before all the federal approvals are lined up. Mayor Harris did that in 2003 by starting construction of the BRT program before getting final approval from the FTA. The net result was that the FTA not only took back the federal funds but in addition declared that the project would never again qualify for federal funding.

The real danger is that the Mayor may go ahead anyway without federal funds. The case could be made that he intended this all along because in none of the state and city bills (See Process Documents for the State's HB 1309 and Council Bill 40) that authorized the increase in tax, is there any mention of federal funds. This despite the fact that the sole rationale given for imposition of the additional ½ percent jump in the GE tax from 4 to 4½ percent was the necessity to show the FTA that we were serious. This was supposedly the state and the city's commitment to FTA.

Stay tuned this is going to get very interesting in a hurry.