Hawaii News Rail foes challenge city over cost of route fix By Gene Park Aug. 24, 2011 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. The group of rail opponents who filed a federal lawsuit against the $5.3 billion project are now calling for accountability over a route adjustment that would cost at least $29 million to correct. In April 2010 the city admitted that the planned route was too close to Honolulu Airport’s runway airspace. The issue was made known in 2006 but wasn’t publicly addressed until last year. In a letter Tuesday to Mayor Peter Carlisle, the City Council and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the rail opponents asked for an investigation into the route change. "If the project manager or any other consultant is found to have been negligent, that party or parties — rather than Honolulu taxpayers —should be held accountable for the financial consequences of their negligence," says the letter from Cliff Slater, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, Walter Heen and Randall Roth. The letter also made mention of city Department of Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka’s previous employment with Parsons Brinckerhoff, a consulting firm overseeing the project, and characterized it as a conflict of interest. Carlisle said the conflict-of-interest allegation has been brought up by rail opponents since 2007. "The same issue was specifically raised and vetted during the transportation services director’s confirmation hearings before the City Council in 2008 and earlier this year," Carlisle said. "On both occasions, no ethical violation was ever determined and the director’s appointment was confirmed." The route error placed the tracks and a station near the intersection of Aolele Street and Lagoon Drive, which was deemed too close to the end of two airport runways to provide a safety margin for takeoffs and landings. The city proposed to shift the route from Aolele Street mauka about 300 feet, starting about 2,000 feet Ewa of Lagoon Drive. When the route error was identified, Yoshioka said it would cost about $29 million to correct. He said the cost would be within the project’s contingency costs, which is within the $5.3 billion price tag. "It is incorrect and inflammatory to label the increase as negligence or a mistake when the purpose of the preliminary engineering phase was to identify this type of issue," Carlisle said. Slater, who runs the anti-rail website honolulu traffic.com, said paying for the route change out of the contingency budget "is no comfort." "When the issue was raised, I didn’t hear anybody question who was paying for it," Slater said. "It’s their screw-up. Why are they charging us to fix it, especially on the planning side?" Slater said he and the other opponents are reviving the issue because a recent op-ed article they wrote, which was published in the Star-Advertiser on Sunday, reminded them of it. The route change issue is still a sticking point for City Councilman Romy Cachola, who wanted the route to go through Salt Lake, which is within his district. "I was asking the administration to go after the consultant," Cachola said. "And therefore the city is now going to spend more because of the relocation, as well as the condemnation (of nearby businesses). I went after the administration because they were not forthright." Cachola said he was receptive to the rail opponents’ concerns. "They made a mistake and now we have to move," he said. "Someone’s got to be responsible. It should not be the taxpayers who have to pay for that." • VIDEO: Group questions cost of rail realignment Previous Story Answers elusive as complaints about hip replacements surge Next Story Kill shot for Shoji?