Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rail Could Have Been Built 20 Years Ago, but The Good News Is that It’s Happening Now

Honolulu came close to building a fixed guideway transit system nearly two decades ago. But that was then, and this is now – and now is when the economy needs a shot in the arm.

The Honolulu rail project will be the mother of all stimulus packages in Hawaii. Not only will it be the largest civil project in the state’s history, it’ll be happening at a crucially important time in our long-term recovery from the current downturn.

Economics Professor Lawrence Boyd of the University of Hawaii – West Oahu writes in Hawaii Business magazine this month that rail transit can play a significant role in the state’s economic recovery.

He forecasts the direct economic impact of the project’s construction activity at $160 million this year, rising dramatically to $600 million in 2010 and more than $1 billion in 2011.

Combining the direct, indirect and induced economic impacts, Boyd says the project’s total boost to Hawaii's economy will be $307.2 million this year, $1.2 billion in 2010 and $2.1billion in 2011.

The President Again

President Obama had some good things to say yesterday about expanding transit in America. Today, he might as well have been talking about Oahu road commuters when he spoke in Northern Virginia on passage of the federal stimulus package:

"We see the consequences every day in ways that may be less drastic, but are, nonetheless, burdens on local communities and economies -- time with family lost because of longer daily commutes; growth held back by streets that can't handle new business; money wasted on fuel that's burned in worsening traffic. These are problems that the people of Northern Virginia understand acutely."

And so do residents of the President’s home state. We continue to show an October 2008 traffic tie-up on the H-1 freeway in this blog’s left column because it speaks so clearly to Oahu commuters. Each of us has had our cross-town car trips interrupted by accidents, overhead bridge failures, water main breaks, etc.

Honolulu’s rail project will avoid those inevitable delays by separating the commuter from surface traffic. That’s just one of many good reasons to embrace this project – reasons this blog will discuss in depth as we count down the months to the project’s scheduled groundbreaking late this year.

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