It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Ride
by Randall O'Toole, The Anti-Planner, May 6, 2015
Last December, Honolulu’s rail transit project was estimated to be $700 million over budget. Now they are saying it is closer to a billion. Never fear, however: the state legislature just agreed to extend a half-percent excise tax, which was supposed to expire in 2022, indefinitely for five years to pay for the rail and its cost overruns.
Due to many sinkholes and other soil problems, the elevated Honolulu rail line looks to be a bumpy ride.
The legislature was reluctant to do so, but was persuaded after heavy lobbying by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Coincidentally, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that rail contractors and subcontractors have donated well over half a million dollars to Caldwell’s political campaign funds. This doesn’t include sub-subcontractors, which are so numerous that even the transit agency doesn’t know how many there are, much less who they are. (The story is behind a paywall, but it says prime contractors and their principals and employees have given the mayor nearly $324,000 while subcontractors have given nearly $243,000.)
That’s real precise construction work, Lou.
The main reason for the cost overruns is that bids on contracts for various parts of the work were significantly higher than estimated. Meanwhile, the work that is already underway is having problems. At least two concrete columns have developed cracks and have had to be replaced. Groundwater problems and karst caves have also delayed construction. Oahu residents will be lucky to see this project completed with a mere billion-dollar overrun.