by Robert Thomas, InverseCondemnation, March 29, 2017
Honolulu Civil Beat has an interesting editorial today about the Honolulu rail project, the 20-station, 21-mile elevated steel-on-steel project now being built at a cost that was first projected at about $3.8 billion, and at last count is somewhere in the $8 - $11 billion range.
The editorial, "Honolulu Rail: City Needs To Get It Together Or Give It Up," posits that the "perpetually beleaguered rail project is still at least $2 billion short," and "the absence of any decisive leadership ... leav[es] taxpayers on 'a never ending hook.'" The City, the piece argues, needs to get its act together, because the people, "are by no means past the point of no return," and substantially modifying, or even killing the project and rebooting should not be ruled out.
In our opinion, none of that will happen. Now that we are past the recent election -- yet another quasi-referendum on the rail project in which the anti-rail mayoral candidate was soundly defeated -- city officials feel they have been given the green light to get the project finished, whatever the eventual cost might be. The candid statement by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg about public officials' approach to projects in which a municipality's "prestige" become wrapped up is very applicable here: "Nobody's gonna remember how long it took. They're only gonna look and see that it was done."
Honolulu's mayor echoed this vibe:
“It’s like H-3, highly controversial; no one even talks about it today. And I believe rail will be much the same thing because people don’t believe it’s gonna work, no one’s gonna ride it and those kinds of things. But there isn’t a rail system built, as far as I know, anywhere in the country or the world that isn’t heavily used once it’s built and everyone says we should take it to more places.”
That new or increased taxes may be needed isn't going to be a serious impediment, now that the only real check on such exercises has been taken off the table by the voters. There may be objections by editorial boards, and political theater from officials, but in the end, the project will get built, no matter what it costs. They've just got to figure out how we (and by "we," we mean us, the taxpayers) pays for it.
As Sir Rick Astley famously noted, never gonna give you up!