Dear Editor,

Stop Rail Now’s John Brizdle’s assertion that the city should wait until design is complete and federal money is in hand to begin construction of the voter-approved Honolulu rail transit project lacks insight.

Most current transit projects start construction before they get all their funding. The federal New Starts funding process allows agencies to begin projects before all the funds are in hand. The federal government realizes that “time is money,” and when elements of the project, such as utility work and right-of-way acquisitions are done first, construction proceeds more efficiently. In addition, starting construction as soon as possible allows the city to take advantage of the current competitive bidding climate and lock in lower prices. Delays in starting construction will likely result in significantly higher costs.

In addition, the project cost estimate includes more than $1 billion in contingency funds, which could be used as necessary to accommodate changes to the current plan. The project also accounts for utilities and iwi treatment before the project gets to construction. Utilities will be relocated before columns are placed. New utilities are established before the old ones are turned off. And the project will continue to work with cultural practitioners and community groups before anything is constructed.

The prudent approach is to begin construction as soon as the appropriate approvals are given, and that has always been the plan. The rail project has been meeting its federal, state and local requirements and has been called the “best source of new jobs in the state and the best economic engine we have during this recession.” It is best to begin expeditiously.

Jim Dunn
Design Manager, Honolulu Rail Transit Project
(808) 694-3220