As we noted last week, the expanding costs of the Honolulu Rail project has forced Honolulu's mayor to ask whether construction should be delayed or stopped entirely, short of its planned terminus at Ala Moana shopping center. "Middle Street" became the new rail watchword, even though stopping it there would omit -- temporarily or permanently -- the most densely populated, and therefore the most useful, portion of the route.
Middle Street is somewhat of a nondescript, dare we say it, "blah" street; more of a demarcation between the airport area and the more industrialized Dillingham corridor. A place you generally go by on your way elsewhere, not consider a destination. Frankly, it doesn't have much of a reputation for anything exciting. In our minds, it is most notable as the border between "town" and "country," at least psychically.
- Civil Beat's Chad Blair, however, sees it differently. In a tongue-in-cheek piece "Meet Middle Street, Oahu’s Hot New Travel Destination," he details the things to be found along Middle Street, perhaps soon to be the center (middle) of things, if the rail truly does end there: "All your needs are met on Middle Street: Bread. God. School. Booze. Fried chicken. Gas. Money. Cars. Japanese food. Karaoke. Restrooms. Jail. Clearly, Mayor Caldwell and Council Chair Ernie Martin are on to something. Ala Moana simply pales in comparison." Based on his report, we're going to have to reconsider Middle Street. Well played, sir!
- On a much more serious note, Gordon Pang at the Star-Advertiser reports that "Rail cost could be nearly $3 billion above current estimates." We're talking nearly $11 billion. Three billion more than the $8 billion currently projected by the FTA, and way more than the $3+ billion this thing was originally advertised as costing. See "Rail project may create 9,000 jobs" (Jan 17, 2008) ("Honolulu's $3.7 billion commuter rail project could generate an average of 9,100 jobs during the nine years it takes to build it. Those direct and indirect jobs could provide a boost to Honolulu's economy — and the construction sector in particular — between 2009 and 2017."). Those are real sit up and take notice numbers.
- Finally, Star-Advertiser political columnist Richard Borecca writes that "Kakaako property owners [those east of Middle Street, who are now in limbo] suffereing for 'maybe train.'" ("Down Kona Street is Steve Scott’s Scott Hawaii, which started in 1932 making plantation boots for sugarcane and pineapple field workers; now its Scott slippers are a well-known local brand. The city doesn’t want all of Scott’s property, just 7 feet of setback along one side. After months of negotiation, he and the city came to agreement, only to find out now that everything has stopped. “When the mayor came out initially and said stop at Middle Street, we said ‘Good, they won’t be coming here,’ but then Caldwell said he still wants to finish the project. We don’t know if he is stopping or not,” Scott said in an interview."). For more on the legal aspects of this limbo, see this post.
Stay tuned, folks.