Latest Developments on Honolulu Rail Transit Project in Hawaii, USA

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The Honolulu Rail Transit Project is to revised in order to shorten the current rail line. This after the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation approved a new Honolulu rail plan  that ends on South Street.

The new plan will particularly shorten the current rail line by an impressive 1.25 miles and pause construction at the corners of South Street and Halekauwila Street, which are well about a block from the Honolulu Circuit Court as well as the Waterfront Plaza. A new station dubbed the Civic Center Station is planned for that site.

The new plan also defers the construction of the initially planned 1,600-stall Pearl Highlands parking garage that was supposed to offer a convenient place for rail riders from Central Oahu to park their cars before boarding the rail line to head into town.

The parking garage would cost US$ 330M that is, according to the new plan, far more expensive than comparable structures, because the city plan was to build it in a floodplain that would require foundations that span aerially over a stream.

New Honolulu rail plan to reduce the originally proposed ridership by 30%

The shortened line envisioned in the new Honollulu rail plan would reduce the number of people who will use the rail each weekday by nearly 30% from the ridership projections that were developed more than ten years ago, before the actual construction workss of the line began.

The original projected ridership for the entire 20-mile route from East Kapolei to Ala Moana was 119,600 boardings per day, but HART now estimates that ridership would drop to approximately 84,000 per day if the line is shortened and construction on two rail  stations including Ala Moana is put off.

The HART board was told that the city is planning two major bus lines to serve the proposed new end point at Civic Center Station so riders can quickly transfer from rail to buses to continue to the University of Hawaii Manoa, and into Waikiki.

That decrease in ridership means that the Honolulu rail will have less impact on urban traffic than had been originally planned.

Project Overview

Honolulu Rail Transit or Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project is a light rail system under construction in Honolulu County, Hawaii. Construction on the project began in 2011 and is funded by a local tax surcharge and a $ 1.55 billion grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The first phase of the project, which connects the Aloha Stadium and East Kapolei in the Ewa Plain, is due to open later this year, while the second phase of the project will open over the next five years. and cross the city of Honolulu to the Ala Moana Center.

Also Read: Honolulu Rapid Authority appeals for US$550 million for operations

February 2011

After the railway line was approved with 53% of the votes, construction could finally begin. Plans for the public transit line were made in the 1960s; the project on whether to continue, especially during the elections.

March 2012

Honolulu Rail Transit (HART) appoints Dan Grabuskas as Chief Executive Officer and CEO on a three-year contract. Later that year, construction workers began pouring concrete into the foundation that would support the rail pillars, and then the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) and Honolulu City Council signed an agreement for a budget of $ 5 billion, including 1, US $ 6 billion provided by the federal government.

November 2015

The project ran into a major hurdle, as the FTA withheld the funds until the Council could prove that it had sufficient funds to complete the project and extended it by five in January of the following year Years ago the general indirect tax surcharge was decided to add $ 1.2 billion in funding.

May 2016

The FTA announced that it had estimated the total cost of the 32 km route at 8.1 billion US dollars. In addition, completion of the rail system would be delayed by nearly five years to December 2024, compared to HART’s federal funding agreement, which says full service from East Kapolei to the Ala Moana Center would begin in January 2020.

May 2020

It has been announced that the 10-mile section of the route (the first phase) from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium will be completed.

March 2021

Honolulu rail project secures US$70 mn in COVID-relief bill

Honolulu rail project has been included to receive a US$70 million grant from the US$1.9 trillion COVID relief package that is slated to pass through Congress to help cover the hundreds of millions of dollars that Honolulu’s rail transit is projected to lose because of the pandemic.

The US Senator Schatz, who was recently appointed Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee, secured funding for the rail during House discussions of the bill. The federal funding is expected to help the rail project overcome a recent shortfall in local tax revenue as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Also Read: US Department of Transportation announces loan for Silver Line Rail, Texas

For 2020, the Honolulu rail lost some US$62 million in room and excise tax dollars that the project had expected to collect. The US$70 million in rail funds in the federal COVID-19 relief bill would cover that amount.

“This grant will enable Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transport (HART) to continue working toward its critical path construction goals,” HART Interim Executive Director Lori Kahikina said in a press release recently. However, HART finance officials forecast that rail faces a total COVID-related loss of US$376 million in room and excise tax revenues alone over the life of the project.

Indeed, HART’s release on Sunday said the US$70 million will cover “a portion” of the shortfall related to the pandemic. It’s not clear yet how the remaining shortfall will be covered in the years ahead.

In a statement, Schatz said, “Our goal here was to help the City pay for part of its share by covering the loss in local tax revenue caused by the pandemic. This provides some relief, but HART and the City must still come up with a workable financial plan and get this project up and running for the people of Honolulu.”

Jun 2021

Honolulu Rapid Authority appeals for US$550 million for operations

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) has made an appeal to the Honolulu City Council for US$550 million so as to continue with operations as well as pay the rail contractors for the next year for the continuing rail construction that has been largely contested.

The Honolulu rail project is currently running on money that has been largely borrowed and has requested for the city to lend money in bonds despite it being time that would not be recommended to make such requests because the estimated cost of the 20-mile rail line along with stations has now grown to US$12.4 billion.

This has left HART with a budget shortfall on the order of US$3.5 billion.

Also Read: Honolulu rail project secures US$70 mn in COVID-relief bill

HART Chief Operating Officer Rick Keene told members of the HART board last month that the rail authority pays out about US$120 million to US$180 million every three months. Most of these funds go to contractors building the rail operating system, the elevated guideway, and the rail stations. But HART receives considerably less than those amounts in excise and hotel tax collections each quarter at around US$80 million to US$90 million per quarter with an even larger drop to US$68 million per quarter or less during the pandemic.

Another challenge that the project has recently faced is tracks that are too wide for the trains that have wheels thinner than expected. “One solution that is being contemplated right now is maybe changing the wheels on all of the cars, it’s a faster solution and a cheaper solution, but one drawback to changing the wheels is that you’re adding weight to the cars, and so they’re going to go over the threshold.

So you have to subtract weight somewhere. If you have to change the track, that’s estimated to be maybe one year just to manufacture the new track and ship it over here, whereas the wheels could be much quicker.” Lori Kahikina, interim CEO and executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation stated.


October 2021.

While a temporary fix for the rail scheme’s ongoing worry of too-narrow wheels on too-wide tracks remains elusive, a better plan for a solution is taking shape. There was none of local welding company—or hui of companies—bid on the contract, announced in July, to retrofit critical points of track where the automated trains are made to slow to 5 mph from 55 mph.

The current long-range deal is for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and contractor Hitachi Rail Honolulu to retrofit every car with wider wheels, which might take a year to produce, ship to Honolulu and install due to a global supply issue. It was revealed the most earliest delivery date to the city would be around April-May 2022 time frame

The current aim is to run trains on a 20.2-mile, 21-station route between East Kapolei and Ala Moana Center. The scheme is currently budgeted at $12.499 billion and is not scheduled to complete until March 2031. Currently, the budget faces a shortfall of around $3.5 billion, with no easy plan to plug the deficit.

November 2021

Honolulu rail officials trimmed their estimates for the cost of the island’s rail transit project. The rail would now cost approximately US$ 11.4bn to reach Ala Moana Center, in lieu of the US$ 12.4bn estimates put forth earlier in March this year.

This estimate came from a third-party cost analysis carried out by Triunity Management and Engineering, Inc. and it is also attributed to the state tax revenues rebounding from the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The city now faces a nearly US$ 2bn shortfall compared to the previous estimate of US$ 3.5bn, according to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Interim Director Lori Kahikina.

Late November 2021

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) hired Matthew Scanlon as Director of Construction.

Scanlon will work under the direction of the HART Project Director to lead construction management efforts for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project. He will be responsible for construction management, schedule, budget, quality, and oversight of the construction management teams.

This position ensures that work is delivered safely and in accordance with approved plans and specifications while adhering to a budget, schedule, and FTA requirements.

1 thought on “Latest Developments on Honolulu Rail Transit Project in Hawaii, USA”

  1. “Rail’s new, official price tag is out, and the costs to build the transit line to Ala Moana have more than doubled in the past decade to $12.4 billion.

    The new cost assumes that the full 20-mile, 21-station line now has a 65% chance of being ready to ride in March 2031, according to the presentation.

    Under the city’s original agreement with the Federal Transit Administration, the line was supposed to be finished and carrying passengers last year.

    The new cost leaves the city well over $3 billion short of what it needs to finish the project. It’s not clear how the city might fill that funding gap.“ civilbeat 3/12/2021

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