Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A $6 Billion Plan for Hawaii's Long-term Prosperity

Dr. Martin Wachs recently wrote an important article on public investment for transportation and jobs. (See blog post below.) He observed that Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, rural and urban elected officials—all seek funding for roads and transit projects in their districts, asserting repeatedly that these expenditures will create jobs. He correctly asserts that construction jobs do not inherently have higher economic impact than other new jobs. Construction may generate construction jobs but it also is a huge cost item in and of itself and puts a lot of stress on city and state budgets. (All states except North Dacota have deficits.) Finally Wachs says that a shovel-ready project in no way assures that it will have long-term net economic benefits.

Given Wachs’ sound, detailed and impartial assessment, you now can make your own decision between Plan A and Plan B for Honolulu, Hawaii.

For about six billion dollars you can choose either A or B defined as follows.

Plan A
  • Mufi Hannemann's 20 mile, 21 station elevated heavy rail with 3 park-and-ride facilities and no power plant. All of it is a taxpayer subsidized project.
Plan B
  • 11 miles of reversible HOT lanes that will improve the Central Oahu-to-town tidal traffic problem by over 30%.
  • 3 Superferry vessels to connect our islands and provide a resiliency backbone when an island is hit by a disaster.
  • A small Hawaii-based international airline with round-trips to Beijing, Shanghai, Osaka, Moscow, Dubai, Singapore, Sao Paolo and Frankfurt, e.g., Aloha Worldwide.
  • A coal power-plant that will reduce Oahu's oil dependency by 15%. All these can be done as incentivized private projects, or public-private partnerships.
Which plan is best for Hawaii's long term economic prosperity and which one is best for short term political pork?

You know that the correct answer is Plan B. Why are about 75% of Hawaii's politicians choosing Plan A? Because they care about themselves, because doing the same thing again and again is less work, and because they are told what to do by special interests (their party, big money supporters, and unions.)