Volcanic Ash: We can’t fix Honolulu rail by denying its obvious ills
The federal criminal investigation of Honolulu rail has put on painful display the defining flaw that’s driven this $9.2 billion fiasco: denial of reality.
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The federal criminal investigation of Honolulu rail has put on painful display the defining flaw that’s driven this
$9.2 billion fiasco: denial
Virtually no promise has been kept on costs, where the money would come from or when the 20-mile commuter train from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center would be completed.
As each new calamity is revealed, instead of honest reckoning we get rote assurances that all is under control. Few of these assurances have proved to be true, and the cycle of disaster and
denial repeats endlessly.
Even as a federal grand jury investigates possible criminality, following state and city audits documenting malfeasance that’s put rail $4 billion over budget and six years behind schedule, we hear more denials of
Leaders from rail CEO
Andrew Robbins to Gov. David Ige deny seeing any signs that the U.S. attorney’s probe will delay release of $700 million in remaining federal project funds —
critical to finishing the final leg from Middle Street to
No signs except perhaps the refusal of U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine
Chao to discuss rail with
Ige during his trip last week to Washington.
The Federal Transit
Administration would be insane to release more funds while a criminal investigation is ongoing — and we’ve seen from the Louis and Katherine Kealoha case that federal grand juries don’t move quickly.
FTA officials who put more taxpayer money at risk under these circumstances should themselves become of interest to the grand jury, if they aren’t already.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is even denying that it must comply with the federal subpoenas, suggesting the rail agency might refuse to turn over unredacted minutes of the HART board’s executive sessions, as it did with state Auditor Les Kondo.
Good luck with that; while the auditor elected not to use his subpoena authority to obtain the records, HART now faces a grand jury subpoena and would have to justify its stonewalling to a no-nonsense federal judge.
We can’t afford to press ahead with the blind denial of reality that’s gotten us
so deeply in trouble. This project is hopelessly dysfunctional, and funding needed to complete it to Ala Moana Center won’t likely be assured anytime soon.
The only reasonable option is to regroup by pausing rail construction at Middle Street, a major transit hub from which our extensive bus network can be employed to get commuters
to their final destinations.
We can use the pause to let the investigations play out, fix persistent problems with rail governance and management, and rationally plot the best course forward — whether it’s finishing the line to Ala Moana, redirecting the route inland to the University of Hawaii or using ground-level solutions like buses to carry commuters east of Middle Street.
Reach David Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.