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U.S. Department of Transportation Releases $236,277,358 in Federal Funds for Honolulu Rail Project

Today, Senator Schatz announced the release $236,277,358  in federal funds for the Honolulu Rail Transit project.  This U.S. Department of Transportation funding will be used to continue building Hawai‘i’s first light rail system.

The very first Honolulu Rail Column 45 (Copyright Iopa Maunakea use with permission only)

The very first Honolulu Rail Column (Copyright Iopa Maunakea use with permission only)

“Federal funding for the rail project continues to flow and we continue to receive assurance from the DOT and the FTA that it is full speed ahead,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “After 40 years in the making, the rail project is now quickly progressing and I will continue to work towards making a rail system in Hawai‘i a reality.”

Senator Schatz serves on the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Earlier this year, Senator Schatz met with Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Transit Administrator Pete Rogoff to receive their commitment to defend Honolulu rail transit’s funding.

 

Honolulu Rail – One Down… Two-Hundred to Go

I recently had the opportunity to share a Go!Airlines flight with community organizer, musician and founder of the Men of Pa’a, Iopa “Bruddah Kuz” Maunakea, a few weeks ago and I asked him what he was doing over on Oahu.

Bruddah Kuz

He told me that he was “working on the rail… the Honolulu Rail”.

Well the other day he posted the following picture on Facebook and I asked him I could post this here on my site because I understand the importance of what this actually represents:

Honolulu Rail Column 65 (Copyright Iopa Maunakea use with permission only)

“Bruddah Kuz” stated on his Facebook page, “Strip the forms on column 65. One down and two hundred more to go…pretty impressive the view going be awesome….”

Congressional Candidate Bob Marx… “Rail is the Least Worries”

Today marked the first concrete pouring for Honolulu’s rail project, but according to Bob Marx, candidate for Hawaiʻi’s Second Congressional District, “Rail is the least of worries [for the State].” Honolulu’s rail project is now projected to cost over US $5 Billion, according to the project-financing plan prepared for the Federal Transit Administration.

Congressional Candidate Bob Marx

Honolulu’s rail project is billed as a way to reduce traffic congestion on the freeways and generate local jobs, but research done shows that these claims are at best dubious. According to the final Environmental Impact Statement for the project, whether rail is built or not, population growth will add around 476,000 cars to the road by 2030. The rail project would reduce congestion by an insignificant 1.3%.

Speaking to a group of supporters in University Heights Thursday evening, Marx stated, “Spending over five billion on rail for one city is a waste of money, considering the various other transportation problems we have on the neighbor islands.” Forty-seven percent of rail funding comes from an excise tax increase for all Oʻahu residents, yet very few residents living on Oʻahu will benefit from the rail project. Despite this fact, even people who do not live in the area served by rail will still be paying for Honolulu’s bloated project.

Rural roads in the state of Hawaiʻi are ranked among the poorest in the nation. In September 2011, a report published by TRIP, a non-profit national transportation research group, ranked 29% of Hawaiʻi’s rural roads in poor condition. The report also ranked 16% of bridges in Rural Hawaiʻi as structurally deficient. Furthermore, poor planning and design of roads leads to increased accidents and traffic fatalities. According to a state report, in the County of Hawaiʻi, Highway 130 has accident rate nearly twice the state average, and 66% of accidents are fatalities. Marx stated that “traffic accidents in our communities can be prevented with regular maintenance and improvements to our roads…If elected, I will ensure that Hawaiʻi’s roads are improved.” With the $5 billion allocated to the rail project, the DOT could instead update transportation infrastructure, and road fatalities could be significantly reduced. For example, the same report stated that with $138 million in funds, the accident rate on Highway 130 could be reduced by 25%.

It is not just the roads that need improvement. The State of Hawaiʻi imports 80% of all its goods, and harbors in Hawaiʻi account for 98% of imports. “Our harbors need to grow as population increases, and improvements to the most needed sites in Kawaihae and Hilo will cost $423 million. Whereas these projects are essential to Hawaiʻi’s growth, the Honolulu Rail project costs significantly more and produces exponentially less benefit,” Marx said.

With more pressing transportation concerns throughout the state, one might ask why the Rail project is being built at all. Marx criticized proponents of rail as “individuals beholden to special interests.” Of the expenditures to date on the Rail Project, over $90 million was paid to Parsons Brinkerhoff, an international engineering and management firm. According to FEC campaign contribution reports, Parsons Brinkerhoff has regularly contributed large amounts of money to Mufi Hannemann, the former Honolulu mayor who initiated the Rail Project and is now running for Congress in the Second District.

When discussing the frivolity of the rail project, Marx remarked, “The rail project is a waste of money, we have real problems to solve in this state. Unlike [Hannemann], I am not beholden to any special interests. I have not taken any money from PACs. If elected, I will represent the people—that is what congress should do, that’s what I will do.”

Kirk Caldwell Launches Campaign for Honolulu Mayor

Kirk Caldwell, former city Managing Director, officially launched his campaign for Mayor Thursday morning.

Kirk Caldwell and Supporters

“I believe you deserve better than what you’re getting right now and I can do the job. It’s about rolling up our sleeves, it’s about digging in, it’s about knowing the details, it’s about working with people and solving problems. That’s how I approach issues. It’s about hands on details that make life better for all of you. That’s the kind of Mayor that I’m going to be,” Caldwell said in front of sign waving supporters.

“I believe in the bottom of my heart that you need someone who approaches this job seriously; the whole job not just the ceremonies, not just the ground br eakings, not just the world travel and not just to stand on one controversial issue,” said Caldwell.

Caldwell acknowledged that the Honolulu rail project is one of the many important issues this election saying “Rail is a huge issue and I’m pro mass transit. This system is not only about creating jobs but really redesigning our city around each of the transit stations. It’s about people living closer to work and spending more time at home with each other and cele br ating what’s best about life.”

Being a pro-rail supporter, Caldwell expressed concern about the way Peter Carlisle has handled the project saying “I think the way it has been handled is that its in more trouble because of a lack of focus, a lack of paying attention to detail, a lack of transparency and a lack of speaking to the people about the problems with rail and how you’re going to overcome them.”

With rail arguably the largest issue this election, Caldwell made a point to also mention the importance of smaller projects and paying close attention to the details. Using the recent overflowing trash problem at Diamond Head and Ala Wai as an example he said “the pictures say it all, the headlines say it all. We have trash not being picked up for a whole month in a major premier tourist destination in Hawaii , in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I can’t think of anything more basic, and more important for a mayor to do then to pick up the trash – and Mayor Carlisle cannot do this.”

Kirk Caldwell and Supporters

“I can promise you this – I’m going to be your hands on mayor; I’m going to approach every problem seriously, I’m going to listen to everyone I’m going to be transparent about the issues. And I’m going to put the people first when we solve the problems,” he added.

Caldwell also distributed a video message to his supporters on social media filmed at the Waipahu Sugar Mill in Waipahu – where Kirk was born and raised. Speaking about his experience growing up in a plantation town he said “This community helped shaped who I am. It was a great place to grow up as a kid.”

“It taught me the value of hard work, about tolerance, about listening to people, about caring for each other, about helping each other, about making decisions together and I carry those values with me to this day,” he added.

When asked by a reporter at Thursday morning’s press conference about his chances in the election, Caldwell said “I’m confident – I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could win. I have a plan and I’m running to win.”

Honolulu Rail Follies – Sumitomo Appeals Honolulu Transit Core System’s DBOM Contract Award with DCCA

Media Release:

After a careful review of the City’s denial of its protest of the Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project Core Systems Design/Build/Operate/Maintain (DBOM) award, Sumitomo Corporation of America (SCOA) has decided to appeal the decision by the City and ask for an impartial hearing from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA).

Sumitomo remains very interested in the Honolulu rail project and wants to be the company that builds this system. Emphasizing this, Gino Antoniello, VP, Transportation Systems and Equipment for SCOA explained: “Our protest–a first for us–was prompted by the conviction that our bid was improperly passed over in favor of another vendor with less experience and a questionable track record that lacked the proper legal qualifications to undertake a project of this scope.  Simply speaking, their bid does not meet all the specification requirements and adds up to less value with a significantly higher price tag overall – an extra $900 million more that will be taken out of the pockets of Honolulu taxpayers.”  In contrast, SCOA’s proposal meets all the specification requirements, makes no conditions and provides the best value to the City and its taxpayers.

Explaining the company’s decision to proceed to the next step in the process, Mr. Antoniello added, “We embarked on this protest reluctantly, one to protect our good name and standing in the industry, but most importantly, because we owe it to all our local partners and contractors, including WASA Electric with whom we have worked over the past two years to ensure we would not just be building a world class transit system, but we would be creating a new industry with long term jobs for the State of Hawaii.   This flawed decision by the City to reject our protest, not only hurts Sumitomo, but it jeopardizes the livelihood of our local partners, and the community with whom we have built lasting relationships.

“Sumitomo has a stellar performance record both in the U.S. and internationally,” states Antoniello.  “With a history that dates back 400 years, the company has the corporate longevity and financial stability that ensures our clients predictability and reliability.  This is important in projects with timelines that span decades and involve many subcontractors.   As the prime contractor we manage all of that and we have never had a legal conflict, frivolous lawsuits, or any pursuit of liquidated damages with a client.  With an impeccable track record we have strong customer references and a very high rate of repeat business.”

Antoniello stressed that in starting down this protest path, the company did so with a readiness to go all the way.   “We are confident that we will prevail and we respect the appeal process, and look forward to an impartial review and outcome by the DCCA.”

Sumitomo Files Formal Protest Regarding Winning Bid on Part of the Honolulu Rail Project

Media Release:

Sumitomo Corporation of America (SCOA) filed a formal protest today regarding the selection of the winning bid for the Core Systems DBOM (Design, Build, Operate and Maintain) part of the Honolulu rail project.

“We regret having to take this action. It is not how we normally respond to bid outcomes,” said Gino Antoniello, Vice President, Transportation Systems and Equipment, SCOA. “However, we are working with many local partners and our team includes several Honolulu-based companies. We owe it both to ourselves and to them to challenge what we believe to be a wrong decision.”

Antoniello went on to explain: “Our concerns have only intensified following our debriefing meeting with the City last Monday and as we thoroughly reviewed the documents that were made available to us. The failure of the City to recognize and properly take into account the cost of the project over its total life-cycle will leave the Honolulu taxpayers with the burden of paying as much as $900 million more to operate and maintain the system.”

“We believe that the City must give our protest serious consideration and we fully expect the City to realize that the Sumitomo offer provides the best value to the City and the taxpayers,” said Antoniello.