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The Money Train

How public projects shape our economic future.

(page 4 of 6)

Key Federal Project

Illustration: courtesy of Naval Facilities Engineering Command, hawaii

U.S. Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii

Cost: $318 million

Construction Timeline: Summer 2007 to end of 2010

Description: The new facility will be the future home of the National Security Agency (NSA) Hawaii, which gathers intelligence in the Pacific, Far East, South and Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. The state-of-the-art facility will bring high-tech tools to the nation’s cryptologists, providing timely information to U.S. decision-making leaders in matters of national security. Main construction includes operations and data management facilities. 

The practice, called congestion pricing, deters single-passenger riders from using it by charging them more during peak hours. For example, the 91 Express Lanes in Southern California charges $1.25 when there is no traffic; from 3 to 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, when the freeway is most congested, the toll rises to $10. If it were a vending machine, it would mean you would pay $10 for a Diet Coke at noon on a hot day, and $1.25 in the evening. HOT lane supporters say Honolulu’s alternative would cost $3.50 during peak times.

Costs of the rail project vary, depending on who you ask. The alternatives analysis prepared by the city in 2006 estimated $3.6 billion. Skeptics believe the cost to be closer to $6 billion. Funding will come from the general excise tax county surcharge, and the city expects a generous subsidy from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). U.S. Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he believed the FTA would contribute 30 percent to 35 percent, or roughly $900 million, toward the project. Thus far, only two projects, both in New York, have received FTA grants of more than a billion dollars. A Dallas light-rail project has been guaranteed $700 million in FTA funding.

Panos Prevedouros, a Honolulu mayoral candidate on leave from his civil engineering teaching post at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is a champion of HOT lanes. In March 2008, he released his own transportation alternatives analysis. The study, directed by Prevedouros with assistance from UH students, shows a 10-mile HOT lane from the H-1/H-2 interchange to Iwilei would cost $1 billion to construct. The city’s alternatives analysis studied a similar alternative and estimated the cost at $2.6 billion.

But Prevedouros adds that one singular project won’t fix the entire transit situation; his study includes four underpasses through the busiest intersections at a cost of $50 million each, and a tunnel under Pearl Harbor connecting Ewa to downtown, an estimated $3 billion to $5 billion project. This solution would create a lot of construction jobs, too.

Since the city chose a fixed-guideway system in December 2006, most of the detailed information supports the technology and its economic impact. According to the city’s estimates, about 4,700 construction jobs will be created annually, utilizing architects and engineers and every skilled trade from masons and carpenters to sheet metal workers and painters. On a yearly basis, the project will result in 11,000 direct and indirect jobs, making use of suppliers and consultants. Over 90,000 person years of employment will be created through the life of the project.

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