Councilwoman on shortening, stopping rail: ‘I would love to buy a Jaguar, but I can’t afford it’

Another Honolulu City Council member is raising the possibility of killing the rail project.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi says it might be time to face the reality that we just can’t afford it.

This comes a day after Councilwoman Kymberly Pine said that rail is dead, because state lawmakers did not come up with a funding bill for the project.

Kobayashi adds that it’s time to give serious thought to stopping the project, or at least shortening it to make it affordable.

She says even after the project is built, the city might not be able to afford the cost of operation and maintenance, so it makes sense to at least scale the project back.

State lawmakers ended the legislative session unable to agree on how to offset a $3 billion shortfall for the rail project. Kobayashi says it’s worrisome, and signals a time to make some tough decisions.

“If it was a business, I think they would stop it and say, ‘Stop the bleeding. We can’t keep throwing good money after bad,'” she said.

Kobayashi says state lawmakers are not to blame. The rail is a city project, and it’s the city’s responsibility to build something it can afford.

KHON2 asked Kobayashi, so it makes sense to consider not going all the way to Ala Moana Center, or just not doing it at all?

“I would love to buy a Jaguar, but I can’t afford it,” she replied. “I wouldn’t be able to afford the maintenance, and that’s why I don’t have one.”

Kobayashi says even if lawmakers come up with a funding bill and pass it through a special session, it would cost $100 million a year to operate and maintain the system. She’s not sure if the ridership can raise that amount, so city taxpayers will have to pay the difference.

She says that would likely mean raising property taxes, “because the ridership numbers are iffy. Even the amount of the operation and maintenance, we get different numbers. I know it’s over $100 million, and that already is scary.”

A spokesman for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation says ridership is expected to pay for about 40 percent of operation and maintenance, so city taxpayers would have to pay the rest.

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