Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mississippi River Still Rollin' Along to the Gulf

Davenport's lock and dam #15, largest roller dam in the world.
The high school reunion showed us how much things had changed in 50 years, but a look around the hometown showed us some things haven’t changed at all. For example, the river outside our hotel was still flowing left to right this morning when viewed from the Iowa side. (Several hours later, it still was.)

No news there, and that also was our reaction to the main story in today’s Honolulu Advertiser. The story seems like another one of those pieces the paper likes to run about the Honolulu rail project – “view with alarm” stories they called them in journalism school.

Far as we can tell from reading the story twice, the rail project is still going to cost $5.3 billion, so nothing new there. In fact, the only “new” angle in the story seems to be that the paper decided to divide that amount by the number of households on Oahu to come up with a per-household cost.

They could have done that years ago, so it looks like the story’s true purpose was to view the project’s cost “with alarm” as a way of giving space to advocates who favor an at-grade system, which they say would cost less.

The Uncounted Hidden Costs

The City counters that “an elevated train will be faster, more reliable and cheaper to operate” – not to mention safer, since at-grade systems chalk up injuries and deaths just about everywhere they’re built. It’s inevitable when you mix trains, cars, trucks and pedestrians.

Also not mentioned in the story is the cost of carving out an at-grade corridor through the urban environment. A street has to be widened to retain the same number of vehicle lanes when a rail line is added in the middle of the street. The impact on neighboring properties can be severe.

What truly is worthy of being viewed with alarm is this new effort to deviate from the current transit plan, which has been thoroughly studied and put together over several years. Keep reading, below, for reasons favoring an elevated rail line.

Honolulu’s transit plan is sound and deserves to keep on rollin’ -- keep on rollin’ along.

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