LOS ANGELES — Former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano has taken out a full-page ad in the Washington Post asking President Donald Trump to halt Oahu’s $10 billion elevated rail project.
The ad opposing the 20-mile line that ends in downtown Honolulu was paid for by the Abigail K. Kawananakoa Foundation.
Running an ad in the Washington Post is not a new tactic for rail opponents.
The people of Oahu have now gone through three election cycles where rail was the issue of the day, and each time affirmed that rail should be completed as originally planned, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a statement.
“In each of those elections, ads like the one that appeared in today’s Washington Post were paid for by those who oppose the project, as is their right under the First Amendment,” Caldwell said.
The mayor said he remains “focused on working really hard to extend the city’s half-percent rail surcharge for at least another 10 years.”
The ad is a letter from Cayetano to Trump.
The ad was a copy of an email message sent to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, the day before the ad was published, Cayetano said in an interview.
"Initially, my intent was to send a letter to President Trump via Secretary Chao," Cayetano said. Abigail Kawananakoa, a descendent of the overthrown Hawaiian monarchy, stepped forward and offered to pay for the ad, he said.
Cayetano said he hasn't received a response yet.
The former governor wrote in the letter he voted against Trump as a lifelong Democrat, but says the president is “right on track in scrutinizing wasteful spending on pork barrel projects.”
“Massive cost overruns and inﬂated ridership projections are the norm in rail projects, but Honolulu’s 20-mile elevated rail system tops them all,” Cayetano wrote.
The cost of the project has increased from $5.2 billion to $8.2 billion. Lawmakers are considering a bill to extend the general excise tax a second time to cover the additional cost.
The former governor said the Federal Transit Administration should terminate the full funding grant agreement use the remaining $800 million from the $1.55 billion it had agreed to give Hawaii “to a more worthy project.”
“Honolulu’s rail project does not deserve a single dollar more from the federal government,” Cayetano wrote.
The city has until April 30 to give the FTA a recovery plan explaining how it will overcome the funding challenges and build a viable system. The GET extension would cover the shortfall, if lawmakers approve it.
If the FTA doesn’t accept whatever plan the city submits, it could revoke the $1.55 billion.