Gov. Linda Lingle is defending her administration’s financial review of the city’s $5.5 billion rail transit project, saying she believes she has a responsibility to determine what it could cost taxpayers.
The project’s final environmental impact statement requires the governor to sign off on the project, but Lingle says that duty likely will fall to the next governor after her independent financial review is completed.
Rail supporters say Lingle’s review is merely a stall tactic, questioning why her administration should spend $300,000 to review the project if she is leaving it to the next governor for approval.
Go Rail Go, a group formed in 2008 to push for voter approval of the rail project, held a rally Tuesday at the state Capitol urging Lingle to approve the EIS.
Alicia Maluafiti, a Go Rail Go board member, said the Lingle administration has had the draft of the final EIS since December, and the final version since June.
"Why wait and not even use the past 300 days to do your due diligence?" Maluafiti said. "The directors and the administration should have been doing that all along.
"Our families are tired of waiting," she added. "We want jobs now. We need economic recovery now."
City officials have stated that the rail project has undergone extensive financial review from independent third parties.
U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye also has urged Lingle to sign the EIS, noting that federal funds slated for the project could be at risk if the approval is not granted in a timely manner.
Lingle said the financial analysis will look at the cost to build the rail as well as the daily operation and maintenance of the system.
"It’s important to remember that if we get funding from the federal government — and they said maybe $1.5 billion — that leaves us responsible for $4.5 billion," said Lingle, rounding the estimated cost up to $6 billion. "Once we take that federal money, we can’t back off from that project, no matter what. We are making a commitment to spend $4.5 billion."
Lingle said she plans to share her financial review with the city, the federal government and the public.
"I think getting the information going at the earliest possible stage, and sharing it with the federal government — and we’ve asked them to share any information they have with us — (is needed) so we can give the public the best, most transparent financial analysis as possible. So everyone can make a good decision."