Rail System Project Expected to Create New Jobs in Hawaii

Mon April 28, 2008 - West Edition
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HONOLULU (AP) Construction on Oahu’s $3.7 billion commuter rail project could generate up to 9,100 jobs and result in an influx of workers from the mainland, according to the project’s main consultant.

An economic analysis by New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff said between a third and half of the jobs would be in the construction industry. Spending by construction workers would create the remaining jobs.

The report said mainland workers would be needed because of Hawaii’s low unemployment rate, the scale of the project and the specialty skills it requires.

“There will be literally thousands of construction workers on the job for its duration,” said Mark Scheibe, deputy project manager of Parsons Brinckerhoff. “And that multiplies through the community.”

Experts say the rail system, which is expected to be the state’s largest public works project, would provide a much-needed boost to Hawaii’s economy during a period when it is expected to slow down. City officials plan to break ground on the new rail system late next year and have it completed by 2017.

The project is “roughly the equivalent of building a major resort or a Trump Tower each year,” said University of Hawaii economics professor Carl Bonham. “It helps because it is keeping people at work. It’s a stabilizing force.”

But the report by Parsons Brinckerhoff noted that the project also has some potential drawbacks. Its demand for building materials and workers, for example, could increase residential and commercial construction costs.

The tax on local residents to help pay for the rail system could push up the cost of living on Oahu. And some jobs could be lost as businesses are displaced to allow for construction of the new transit system although the company’s report said those jobs are expected to be offset by new developments near rail stations.

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