November 1995 Home   Newsletters

December 1995

January 1996

Viewpoint (Astrid Monson)
Honolulu League Endorses LWVUS's Focus on Initiative
But for the Grace of God (Astrid Monson)
Council Member Felix Speaks on East Honolulu Settlement
Con Con Panel Discussion
Court Monitors Needed

But for the Grace of God

Unbelievable as it may seem in today's fiscal climate, there are still those who call for building a rapid transit rail guideway on Oahu. It should be remembered that the proposal the City Council rejected in

1992 would have committed the State to contribute $50 million a year for ten years to help finance its construction; would have depended upon the Federal government to pay $680 million share of the capital cost; and would have required Oahu taxpayers, through a percent increase in the State excise tax, to pay $1,500 million for its construction costs, plus another $85 million a year in annual rail operating subsidies. One can only speculate what would have happened if construction had started in 1993 and these funds were not forthcoming.

The current draft of the 2020 Oahu Regional Transportation Plan, as recommended by the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization (OMPO), includes $2,037,000,000 for rail transit to be built at an unspecified time before 2020.

Just two weeks ago, however, the Advertiser announced that under pending Congressional legislation federal transit operation subsidies would be cut by 40% beginning October 1. City tax subsidies or further raises in fares would be needed to make up for this.

Apart from all this, however, is the question of the unforeseen difficulties the City could have experienced if we had gone ahead with the proposal. A recent article in the respected British journal The Economist, tells us of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority experience in constructing its new subway system. Some of the difficulties cited in the article are illumination, to say the least.

  1. Part of the $5.8 billion subway has already begun to crack.

  2. A 70-foot sinkhole appeared, causing ground above the subway to cave in as construction workers were reboring its line's twin tunnels to correct pervious mistakes.

  3. Building inspectors found completed sections of the system's "Red Line" to have walls much thinner than required by the stresses on them.

  4. Angry property owners along its route have sued the Authority for some $1 billion in damages as the ground beneath their feet sank nine inches or more.

  5. The earlier "Blue Line", projected to cost $146 million, actually cost more than $800 million.

  6. The $825 million "Green Line" stopped a mile or two short of the main airport it was supposed to serve and has nothing like the ridership projected.

  7. Last summer the Federal Transit Administration, which supplies half of the Authority's $2.9 billion annual budget, had to withhold $1.6 billion as a penalty for mismanagement, halting work on the Red Line for five months.

  8. The leading contractor had to be sacked after it was discovered that wooden wedges had been substituted for steel bracing in the Red Lines walls causing streets above to subside.

  9. Because of fiscal problems, Los Angeles and Orange County officials, in order to stave off bankruptcy have siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars from transit funds. This, concluded The Economist, "may at best bring the runaway Metropolitan Transit Authority to a halt.

Perhaps it is fair to say that "there, but for the grace of the committee on Sensible Transit, the League of Women Voters of Honolulu, and the others who for many years worked in opposition to the City's transit proposal, goes Honolulu.

Astrid Monson
Planning & Zoning Committee

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