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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 23, 2010

City-FAA beef not reassuring

Might as well put the shovels back in the shed. Things aren't looking too hopeful for dirt to be turned anytime soon for O'ahu's commuter rail project.

Another bureaucratic collision with the federal government was reported last week by The Advertiser's Sean Hao, who found that the Federal Aviation Administration had alerted the city more than a year ago about the need for an airspace study.

The study must be done to ensure that the elevated rail line doesn't interfere with the safety zone around runways.

Conflicting accounts from the FAA and the city about the scope and timing of the study aren't reassuring.

The city says that it adaquately addressed the issue of runway incursion months ago.

But the FAA says the city hasn't filed the required paperwork and that the agency has yet to make a determination on whether the rail line punctures the runway safety bubble. The city replies that it's too early to file the reports since construction of the rail line won't start near the airport for years.

And so it goes in the politicized, polarized planning for the rail.

City officials say they've got it all handled; detractors, lately including Gov. Linda Lingle, relish every chance to pick at the plan.

Tough for the average taxpayer to know who to believe.

A leisurely timetable won't help Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who is counting on a successful start to the rail project to fit seamlessly with his gubernatorial campaign schedule. You can count on him aggressively pushing for that first shovel of dirt to be turned.

And maybe he's right.

But it's tough to separate the mayor pushing for rail from the mayor pushing to be governor.

It's also tough to separate the governor looking out for the public's best interest from the governor trying to trip up a political antagonist.