Massive cost overruns and inflated ridership projections are the norm in rail projects, but Honolulu’s 20-mile elevated rail system tops them all. Initially estimated to cost $5.28 billion, the projected construction cost is now $10 billion or $500 million per mile, the most costly in the world.
City officials initially promised that rail would reduce the current level of traffic congestion dramatically. However, the Final Environmental Impact Statement concluded that rail would reduce traffic congestion by less than 2% and that “traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today (without rail).”
Currently. the City does not have the funds to complete the 20-mile system, falling at least $3 billion short and six years behind schedule.
How did this debacle happen? Frankly, like Alaska’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” Honolulu’s rail project was driven more by politics than by objective engineering and planning.