The Denver Post recently published an interesting story about the city’s floundering FasTracks rail program. The scenario sounds eerily similar to Honolulu’s and could be a warning. Colorado voters approved a 0.4 percent sales tax increase to pay for the project. They were told $1 billion in federal funding would be part of the package, but that remains uncertain. Now, plummeting tax revenues and rising construction costs have left them $2.4 billion short. The government’s solution? Proposing another tax increase to close the gap.

Even if this works, residents can look forward to having a functioning rail system in a speedy — 19 years. Right now they can afford to build — you guessed it — half the rail! On Oahu, that’d be the equivalent of people getting half way to work — all the way from Kapolei to, say, Salt Lake.

Denver isn’t the only place with this type of problem. Similar stories have bubbled up across the country from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Dallas and Cleveland this past week. And they aren’t pretty.

More egregiously in Puerto Rico, a rail project that was supposed to cost $766 million soared to $2.25 billion after a decade of planning and construction. Adjusted for inflation, it turned out to be a 113 percent cost overrun, according to an editorial from the Grassroots Institute. Granted, the writer represents a national environmental organization that opposes most construction projects, but even Council member Romy Cachola noted Puerto Rico’s debacle in his report to City Hall.

The city’s website does list some success stories. But could these other cities be a cautionary tale for Oahu?

About the Author