Monday, November 29, 2010

Rail Is a City Project, but Its Anticipated Start Will Synch Nicely with Governor Abercrombie’s Term

Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie’s swearing-in ceremony one week from today will mark the beginning of what’s expected to be an era of stronger cooperation between the State government and the City’s rail project.

The final shot across the City’s bow by outgoing Governor Lingle will likely occur this week, when she presumably will release the findings of her $300,000 study on the rail project’s finances.

The subject is not within her legal responsibilities, as pro-rail Abercrombie noted a few weeks ago, but it gives her one last opportunity to criticize the City’s project, which she’s gone out of her way to do in recent years.

Her critical assessment of Honolulu rail is somewhat ironic, since she herself proposed building a 22-mile rail system early in her first term. Her proposal also included a highway “flyover” and would have required unspecified tax increases – possibly of the fuel tax, registration fees, vehicle weight tax and general excise tax.

Honolulu’s share of the rail project’s financing is coming from the one-half percent increase in the GET that began in January 2007 and will continue through 2022. The Federal government has repeatedly signaled its intention to fund $1.55 billion of the project’s cost.

Lingle has refused to sign off on rail’s Final Environmental Impact Statement until the financial review is concluded. Abercrombie is expected to do so once the State Office of Environmental Quality Control gives its final approval of the FEIS no matter what Lingle says about financing.

Other approvals are required before rail can break ground, but Abercrombie’s move into the Capitol’s corner office surely marks the end of the contentious political wrangling between the State and City administrations over Honolulu rail. (And we’re not calling you “Shirley.”)

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