Where Pro-Rail and Anti-Rail Voices Agree
by Dr Kelii Akina, PhD, Grassroot Institute
Sometimes it feels like the Honolulu Rail is destined to be a continual topic of controversy. But that doesn't have to be the case. In fact, there's one thing that could bring together the most fervent pro- and anti-Rail advocates ... and it's something we should have done a long time ago.
When the legislature adjourned without coming to an agreement on a plan to fund the Rail, feelings were running so high that some called for a "cooling off" period. A last minute attempt to tax tourists to raise money for Rail brought bad feeling, sniping in the press, and the same complaints that surface every time the tax-to-fund issue comes up.
HART and local politicians are under pressure to come up with a funding plan before the federal government's July deadline so they can get the promised $1.5 billion for the project from the FTA. But it's easy to see why legislators hesitated to pass a tax hike or extend the existing surcharge.
Supporters of Rail say we've come too far, that the project needs to be completed, and that it will ultimately be good for the city. They point out that it will cost $3 billion to shut down the project and that the public wants to see it finished.
Opponents say that whatever the cost of shutting it down, it's still cheaper than throwing more money at Rail. They doubt the project will ever be able to pay for itself, and say it's destined to become an endless financial sinkhole. They look at a project that was originally said to cost $3 billion ... then $5 billion ... then $8 billion ... and is now slated at $10 billion-plus and ask when the spending will end.
But there's one thing both sides should be calling for: a full audit of HART.
No matter where you stand on Rail, you can agree that the public deserves an honest accounting of the money spent so far ... as well as a realistic assessment of the costs ahead. We're overdue for a non-political, unbiased, fully transparent look at the Rail, its operating costs, the price of shutting it down, and its potential.
How can we begin to make good decisions about the project when we don't have the numbers we need?
Pro-Rail advocates might think an audit is just a way to delay things. Anti-Rail people may call it pointless. But both should realize that transparency and accountability in Rail can only bolster their position.
People are tired of hearing promises and baseless predictions about Rail -- both the pie-in-the-sky and the gloomy ones alike. An audit is exactly what we need to restore trust and have a sound, reasoned argument about our next steps.
Regardless of where you stand on the project, you must agree that it's time to audit the Rail.