A preliminary rendering of the Pearlridge rail station. Courtesy Photo

Verbatim: Major conflicts of interest with Honolulu Rail Transit consulting firm

in Rail

A group of individuals (Walter Heen, Benjamin Cayetano, Cliff Slater, and Randall Roth) who have been speaking out against the City’s handling of the Honolulu Rail Transit project sent the following letter earlier this week to City officials. The group alleges a conflict of interest in the City’s dealings with Parsons Brinckerhoff, the planning and engineering firm which has had a multi-year, $86 million consulting contract with the City.

To: Mayor Peter Carlisle, Members of the Honolulu City Council, and Members of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) Board

From: Walter Heen, Benjamin Cayetano, Cliff Slater, and Randall Roth

Re: Call for an investigation of apparent negligence

We recently pointed out that:

1. Brinckerhoff has a strong financial interest in the proposed elevated heavy rail system;

2. Three former Parsons Brinckerhoff employees formed the company, InfraConsult, which is supposed to be providing oversight on Parsons Brinckerhoff’s work;

3. A former Parsons Brinckerhoff employee, Wayne Yoshioka, now serves as the City’s Director of Transportation Services (DTS); and

4. Yoshioka’s wife continues to work at Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Such relationships create conflicts of interest that have the potential to lessen accountability. For
example, one related party might hesitate to hold another related party accountable for the latter’s negligence, even in circumstances where negligence is clear.

With that in mind, we draw your attention to the glaring mistake someone made in routing the proposed railway and one of its train stations too close to protected airspace around Honolulu International Airport.

In 2009, DTS director Yoshioka publicly stated that it would cost $29 million to fix the problem and that the entire amount could be “easily absorbed” within the City’s contingency fund. He did not identify the party that made the mistake, nor did he explain why taxpayers should bear the cost of what presumably was someone’s negligence. Given the conflicts of interest noted above, we believe the Mayor, Council, or HART board should conduct a full investigation into the circumstances of the routing mistake. If the project manager or any other consultant is found to have been negligent, that party or parties—rather than Honolulu taxpayers—should be held accountable for the financial consequences of their negligence.

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