Funding the Oahu Rail System: An Expert's Perspective

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) has recently finished archaeological studies and an environmental impact statement, and is now in the process of creating a recovery plan to remain eligible for the CIG grant. This plan includes the alteration of the FFGA to reflect a railway project that is 1.25 miles shorter than the original scope of the work. The announcement of additional funding to cover inflationary costs has been met with appreciation from HART leaders, who point out that this money will help meet the requirements of their recovery plan. The city's goal for the “ready-to-use” 20-mile elevated train project is to arrive on time, on budget and on schedule. Supporters of the railway argue that this project will cause traffic congestion to grow more slowly than without it, will support the development of housing and commercial properties near train stations, and will offer an alternative and consistent mode of transportation that will not be affected by accidents or traffic jams on roads. The railway agency intends to start a future phase of the project using funds from the CIG program outside the TLC to build the rest of the original railway line to the Ala Moana Transit Center.

This phase will be funded by a combination of federal, state, and local sources. The federal government has already committed $1.55 billion in funding for the project, while the state has committed $2.4 billion. The remaining $3 billion will come from local sources, such as taxes, bonds, and other sources. The city of Honolulu has also proposed a number of options for funding the project. These include increasing taxes on hotel rooms and rental cars, issuing bonds, and increasing fares on public transportation.

The city is also considering other options such as public-private partnerships and private investments. The city's director of transportation services, Morton, notes that discussions about railroads often turn into discussions about railroads versus other modes of transportation. He adds that one of the reasons for the railroad is that Honolulu's current public transportation system has been hindered by increased traffic congestion on highways. Councilwoman René Mansho's surprise negative vote in September 1992 put a stop to Honolulu's fully functioning railway system. However, with additional funding now available to cover inflationary costs, HART is now in a better position to complete their recovery plan and move forward with their project.

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