Monday, August 23, 2021

Honolulu Rail Critic Pushes for Middle Street Endpoint

"Longtime Honolulu rail critic Panos Prevedouros advocated that the project should hit pause, finish the line to Middle Street and the route should be reassessed. A city councilmember introduced a resolution this week with a similar stance.

A vocal critic of the Honolulu rail project, UH Manoa civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros has never held back on his opinion of the decision to build the mass transit system.

"I'm totally exhausted about the inability of our decision-makers to do the right thing, after all the proof they have in front of them," he said. "These are crazy numbers by any standard of infrastructure project delivery."

I said so on May 11, 2021 in an interview with Hawaii Public Radio

Then on August 3 came devastating confirmation from a respected FTA agent. The retired FTA director, who evaluated every rail project for 30 years, said:

“The Honolulu project is way beyond anything that I’ve observed….I’m shocked. … Whenever I see the costs going up, I’m personally flabbergasted. It is way beyond and unmatched by anything that I have observed. Of the projects we’ve done in the last few decades, there’s nothing that even approaches that cost overrun. It’s extra­ordinary by any measure…. Because the shortfall’s so dramatic, there are questions about where should we stop the project… this project can no longer proceed."

More details of his opinion were published on August 9:

"One former, longtime FTA official who helped launch Honolulu rail more than a decade ago said the dramatic cost overruns that have plagued the project ever since construction started are worse than anything he’s seen. 

I’ve never seen anything close,” Ron Fisher, former director of the FTA Office of Project Planning, said of rail’s persistent and growing budget woes."

Fisher, meanwhile, said that rail is in an unusual situation among the nation’s transit projects because it’s woefully short on cash and essentially has been pushed back into a planning phase. 

Local transportation officials should pause the project, he said, in order to study different endpoints to the line as well as their impacts to ridership, rail operations and the surrounding environment. 

That study of the various costs and benefits of stopping at different places should involve credible experts, and it should include legitimate public input and participation, Fisher added."