Hawaii Business Magazine Asks: "How Much Will Rail Cost Us In the End?" Our Answer: As Much As It Takes
by Robert Thomas, Inverse Condemnation, July 31, 2015
Hawaii Business magazine has a new report about Honolulu rail. The headline asks, "How Much Will It Cost Us In The End?"
There are questions of how much over original projections the rail project currently is. Or whether it is really over budget at all. Anywhere from zero (according to HART), to $1 billion. And, of course, whether there is an upper limit on how high the costs could go. Anyone with an interest in rail should read the story.
The only thing we have to add is that in our view (as we wrote here), the only honest answer is "as much as it takes."
The project is already being built, and they aren't going to simply stop now that they've started to pour concrete. In addition to having commenced construction, the legal machinery of the project is well underway, with properties being acquired and otherwise targeted for taking.
Moreover, Honolulu voters approved of rail -- if only indirectly -- by authorizing the formation of HART. The key politicians are supporting rail and have built their "legacies" on the project. The legislature, despite some shibai, re-authorized a special tax to pay for rail. The courts, with a couple of glitches, have rebuffed all legal challenges.
In other words, it is full steam ahead.
And once that happens, in our experience, something as minor as ballooning costs will not stop the rail. And when we say "minor," we don't mean minor to the taxpayers of Honolulu. That may be pretty major, no matter on whom the blamestorming ultimately pins the tail. What we mean is that in the view of rail and other government officials, the cost aspects are only of serious concern if they threaten to stop the project, which they will not.
As we wrote earlier, the model for officials' attitude is former New York City Mayor Bloomberg who responded to attacks on a marquee redevelopment project that came under heavy fire, "[n]obody's gonna remember how long it took. They're only gonna look and see that it was done."
Hawaii's officials are also predicting that no one will remember how much it cost, either.