Thursday, July 16, 2009

2008 to 2013 Costs of Proposed Rail

The Fiscal Year 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Plan or TIP includes detailed costs for the Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project, which is the full description for Mayor Hanneman’s proposed rail project. The TIP tables also include FY 2012 and FY 2013 information.

The tables show costs for planning, design, right-of-way, construction, equipment, etc. The costs add up to $4,420,859,000 for FY 2008 to 2013 only. The charts do not show how far the project will go after spending the shown funds. The City could start one mile east of Kapolei, spend 4.4 billion dollars, and still not make it to Ala Moana Center.

Of course the amount of money by itself is staggering given Oahu’s 400,000 taxpayers. Two other things are particularly startling: (a) the excessive amounts for planning and design, and (b) the tiny federal contribution.

Excessive Planning and Design Cost

Planning and design costs are shown for FY 2008, 2009 and 2010. They add up to $320.3 million of which the Federal contribution is only 12%; all the rest all local taxes. This does not include all planning and promotion monies spent between 2004 and 2007 when Mayor Hannemann made this project from nothing to priority one. It would be safe to say that planning, promotion and design will cost at least $350 million.

To put this in perspective, I provide costs for two recent large roadway projects for comparison:

1) Tampa’s 10 miles of 3-lane reversible elevated express lanes were completed in summer 2006 at a total cost of $320 million including planning and design.
2) California State Highway 210, a 6-lane freeway facility with a length of 7.25 miles with several interchanges was delivered in summer 2007 at a total cost of $233 million.

This is a startling comparison: These two freeway projects cost roughly $30 million per mile designed, constructed and delivered to their communities for use, and Oahu’s rail project is costing $17 million per mile for the paperwork alone.

Tiny Federal Contribution

As mentioned above, the Feds provide 12% of the planning and design costs. How about the construction costs? Mayor Hannemann talks about one billion dollars. Yet the TIP includes only $600 million for the first $4.4 billion of the project. Of course $0.6 million is much less than the “proclaimed” $1.0 billion. This results in a tiny share of 13.5% by the Federal Transit Administration.

If there are more federal monies to come, then this means that the project will cost well over five billion dollars for the first 20 miles.

Cannot Afford It

It’s worth remembering that in his 2004 campaign, Hannemann’s moto was that for a project to get the green light it must pass muster: Do We Need It? Can We Afford It? Can We Maintain It?

Honolulu has a traffic congestion problem. Rail is not a solution to traffic congestion. Thus we do not need it.

The above numbers clearly indicate that the costs for rail are enormous and out of proportion to Oahu's tax base. Thus we cannot afford it.

But if we are crazy enough to build it, then can we maintain it? But of course: Like the sewers, water mains, roads and city parks.