Wednesday, December 3, 2008

20 Simple but Important Questions for the Rail DEIS

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) of the City’s proposed rail system is the document that should provide answers to all reasonable impacts. It is available at all public libraries. It is also available at the city’s website along with a lot of the rail propaganda that your tax dollars paid for.

Below I list 20 simple but important questions. Does the DEIS answer them clearly?
  1. The bus routes will change. What happens to your route? What happens to express buses?
  2. Lanes will be taken away, some temporarily for construction and some permanently. Where are those lane closures and what is their duration? Are there traffic rerouting plans?
  3. Will there be bike racks on the train and where will they be located? Will bikes be allowed on the train? Will there be a place for surfboards? What about luggage? What about construction workers’ tools? Will there be a place for people to put large items they purchase at a big box retailer? What’s the size limitation?
  4. Will there be washrooms at the stations? How about convenience stores, vending machines? Will the platforms have seats? How many?
  5. Under land use, Aloun farms needs to relocate. Is that possible? Where will they go?
  6. A relatively simple job of sewer upgrades in Kailua and Kapiolani lead to the loss of businesses and jobs. Are details provided about similar effects during the construction of the rail?
  7. Is there a detailed plan for the effect of rail construction on water, sewer, gas and electric utilities? Will there be disruptions of service? Who pays for all these?
  8. About $107 million will be spent on the soft costs of this project. This “paperwork” cost is rather exorbitant for a single 20 mile rail line. How did $107 million get spent?
  9. The DEIS list of preparers for technical content shows that it was done almost exclusively with out-of-Hawaii engineers, planners and specialists. (See this document under Consultants: H-3 freeway was designed mostly with Hawaii based engineers. If Hawaii engineers are not able to design rail, who will supervise and build this unfamiliar-to-Oahu infrastructure?
  10. Rail construction involves unique skills and certifications that Hawaii construction workers do not have. How will this be addressed?
  11. The city has declared that in many cases only a portion of a parcel needs to be condemned and taken away. Can the business survive with the remaining portion? Are they forced to mandatory downsizing and some loss of employment?
  12. There are 16 schools that are adjacent to the alignment. Will the overhead structure, the continuous high current exposure and the intermittent noise and vibration affect the learning environment? Is it prudent to relocate the schools?
  13. Does rail fit our Hawaiian Sense of Place? How was the impact to tourism and local quality of life by a large elevated structure through town been assessed?
  14. Does the DEIS address the impacted vistas and scenery? Are the aesthetics of the structure and each station explained and presented adequately?
  15. What will happen in the event of a hurricane? Will the train operate? The train in Houston was shut down for 10 days due to hurricane Ike.
  16. BART in the Bay Area uses rail cars made of aluminum to combat corrosion. Is the city’s position that corrosion is not an issue?
  17. It appears that General Excise Tax surcharge proceeds for rail will be much lower than expected for at least four years in a row. How is this deficit going to be made up?
  18. If ridership turns out to be lower than forecast, then what? If the city is forced to provide free train rides like in Puerto Rico, how is the shortfall going to be covered?
  19. I heard that the Ala Moana station will now be at a lower elevation, at the west end of Kona Street and not above Nordstrom’s. What is the exact plan for the Ala Moana Center station and how is the train going to Waikiki and UH afterwards?
  20. Starting construction in Kapolei makes little sense. It may be expeditious and convenient but it is not smart. Why can’t a temporary rail yard be established near the airport or Aloha Stadium and build rail east into the city and west out to Kapolei simultaneously?
The billion dollar question that no DEIS could address is this: With President Obama at the helm and Senator Inouye chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee can we get four billion for rail? How about splitting the bill 50-50 with the feds? Other cities got a 50% or better federal match. Why does Honolulu get less than 25%?

These and many more questions require simple and clear answers.

In addition to the 429 page DEIS, the following files contain information and visuals. The City distributes them on a DVD.
  • Historic Resources.pdf
  • Land Use.pdf
  • Transportation Tech Report.pdf
  • Street Trees.pdf
  • Electric and Magnetic Fields Technical Report.pdf
  • Visual and Aesthetic Technical Report.pdf
  • Historic Appendix B.pdf
  • Cultural Resources.pdf
  • Economics.pdf
  • Geology, soils, farmlands, and natural hazardsTech Report.pdf
  • Haz Waste and Mat Tech Report Appendix A.pdf
  • Natural Resources.pdf
  • Noise&Vibration.pdf
  • Haz Waste and Mat Tech Report.pdf
  • tEISTravelForecasting ENTIRE.pdf
  • Community Impacts.pdf
  • Archaeological Resources.pdf
  • Water Resources.pdf
  • AQ&Energy.pdf
The City released this huge document just before the November 4 elections and in a period that includes the most holidays and days off. (The deadline for comment is January 7, 2009.) The hearings on the adequacy of the Alternatives Analysis were also conducted and concluded in the late November to late December 2006 period to make it as hard as possible for citizens to participate. (If it looks like a Banana Republic and acts like a Banana Republic ...)