Rail Construction Delays Will Take Decades to Counterbalance

An examination of the effects of the construction Honolulu’s rail.

by Panos Prevedouros

One thing that the public has not understood and the City has never explained or quantified is this: The impact of construction on daily traffic flow for 6 to 12 years.

Let’s say that all attempts to stop the proposed heavy rail for Honolulu fail and the rail as shown in the picture above is going to full implementation. There will be 21 approximately football sized stations 40 ft. or higher in the air.

This will require extensive lane closures and in make cases long term full road closures. In addition to the stations there will be 20 miles of guideways in the middle of major arterial streets such as Farrington Hwy., Kam Hwy., Dillingham Blvd., Queen St. Their traffic will have to divert to other (already congested) parallel roads. Congestion will be paralyzing for a decade.

The congestion due to rail construction will be so bad in total, that rail’s tiny traffic relief after it opens won’t balance it out for over 50 years.
Let’s work out a quick and rough estimate.

  • Call “A” the amount of traffic congestion today from the general Ewa/Makakilo/Kapolei area to town.
  • Say rail will take 10 years to be built and congestion on that corridor will be 50% worse on the average. So rail will make 5A of additional congestion.
  • Now let’s say that rail will reduce congestion by a (very large) 10%, so every year thereafter rail will be saving the same folks 0.1A of congestion. (The real traffic congestion reduction will be 2% to 5% at best.)
  • How many years will it take to balance the additional 5A of congestion they suffered while rail was built?
  • 5A divided by 0.1A gives 50
  • 50 years
  • Two generations with zero benefit.

As I have mentioned to folks in Kapolei: The best day for their to Honolulu … was yesterday. Rail or not, congestion will get worse. (That is, until real congestion solutions are implemented.)

Panos Prevedouros’ blog, which is from where this has been reposted (with permission), can be found at :http://fixoahu.blogspot.com/

Panos D. Prevedouros, Ph.D. is a professor of traffic and transportation engineering at the Department of Civil Engineering, Univ. of Hawaii-Manoa since 1990. Panos graduated from the Aristotle Univ. of Greece in 1984, and with Masters and PhD degrees in 1990 from Northwestern Univ. (Evanston, IL), a leading academic institution in engineering and transportation. He chairs the Freeway Simulation Subcommittee of the Transportation Research Board. He was president of the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance from 2006 to 2008. Panos co-authored a Transportation Engineering textbook and over 100 reports and technical papers. He received the 2005 Van Wagoner Award of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. He co-organized the 1st International Symposium on Freeway Operations (ISFO) in Athens, Greece, and the 2nd ISFO in Honolulu in June 2009. Dr. Prevedouros served in the Transit Advisory Task Force in 2006 and in the Technology Selection Expert Panel in 2008 of the City Council of Honolulu. He run for mayor of Honolulu in the 2008 elections and finished 3rd in the primary elections with 18% of the vote from a field of nine candidates.

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