Traffic is bad; rail will help.
We cannot talk about infrastructure and the future of Honolulu without me speaking about transportation, and more specifically, the rail project. Honolulu has some of the nation’s worst traffic. Every artery entering the urban core already experiences traffic bottlenecks – at the H-1 H-2 interchange, near the Middle Street exit, and the University area on H-1. It is only getting worse. We are on a path of more cars, more roads and more traffic congestion.
The future depends on a better approach. Rail transit will finally bring relief to our residents who face, morning after morning and night after night, nothing but the brake lights of the car in front of them.
And, by reducing the amount of cars on the road that run on fossil fuel and replacing them with a rail system, we can reduce our pollution and dependence on foreign oil.
Saving the character of our communities.
If you live outside the route, you might think rail does nothing for you. In fact, it will do a great deal for you. With the growth of O‘ahu’s population come more personal vehicles. Without significant traffic alternatives for the West side, people will look for and demand other places to live.
Rail will ‘keep the country, country’. It will ‘keep Kailua, Kailua’. It will ‘keep East Honolulu, East Honolulu’. It will preserve a way of life for smaller communities on the North Shore or the Windward side. These can see less growth in their areas because the rail system is designed to allow the areas from Kapolei to the urban core to accommodate our island’s expected population growth. Unless we want more growth everywhere else on the island, we must provide rail transit for people along the corridor.
Rail has a long history.
There is a city publication called the ‘Honolulu Rapid Transit Project’ that talks about the need for a rail line as an alternative to passenger vehicles. The proposed line extends from Kapolei to Waikiki across the southern spine of the island. This publication did not come out in 2012. It came out in 1972, or forty years ago during Frank Fasi’s first term as mayor. Mayor Neal Blaisdell first raised the idea for rail in 1968.
Today’s rapid transit project is nothing less than the combined planning efforts, since 1968, of hundreds of city employees, city councils, mayors, state legislators, members of Congress, the Federal Transit Administration, and community, labor and business partners. Rail has been part of a larger plan that has been guiding our island’s development for decades.
I am committed to bring back to government several intrinsic core values: honesty, transparency and fiscal responsibility. I am also committed to seeing the rail project through as the voters intended, on time and within budget. We will build this system the right way. It starts with leadership and expecting the HART board to provide the necessary oversight to satisfy the public. It means setting clear rules regarding change orders, delays, shoddy workmanship and oversight. In addition, it means better transparency with you.
On time and on budget.
Frankly, there’s a lot of information out there regarding rail, but you might never know of it because we in the city are not doing a good job helping you discern what is accurate. You deserve the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The truth is our contracts so far have come in three hundred million dollars under budget. The total revenue from 5 years of a GET surcharge is higher than expected. This happened during the last 3 quarters when we were concerned about an economic downturn. even during the economic downturn. There is a contingency fund of over eight hundred million dollars built into the five point three billion dollar price tag, to cover the potential for additional expenses, just in case. Our goal, obviously, is to avoid costly delays caused by lawsuits or other obstructions.
In the last sixteen months, there’s been remarkable progress. The environmental impact statement was approved. A groundbreaking ceremony was held. The project entered ‘Final Design’. The Federal Transit Administration issued a Letter of No Prejudice that allows us to begin advanced construction. Just last week, President Obama included two hundred and fifty million dollars in his fiscal year 2013 budget for our Honolulu rail project. Reaching these milestones reflects the federal government’s confidence in our system. The Federal Transit Administration financial capacity process is incredibly rigorous. Honolulu has successfully progressed to this point.
In the coming months, hundreds of additional local workers will be hired to work directly on the project with more gaining employment in indirect jobs that result from this investment in our future.
It’s about the future, not the past.
Rail will transform the urban center, protect our rural communities and our agricultural land, and preserve the character of our island for future generations. Taken further, it will be a catalyst to a 21st century city of a million people. This is the only viable option for building this 21st century city and providing a sustainable future for all of O‘ahu that has made it through decades of vetting and is poised to employ people now. Anything else is back to square one. We need to keep moving forward.