Rail project's first phase comes in under budget

Rail project's first phase comes in under budget
Sepe Edmond
Sepe Edmond
Mayor Mufi Hannemann
Mayor Mufi Hannemann

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) -  The biggest capital construction project in state history gains steam.  The City and County of Honolulu awards the construction of the first phase of the Honolulu rail transit project.  And Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann says it will shake up Hawaii's economy.

The winning bidder is a company called Kiewit Pacific.  It's been around for 125 years.  They're based out of Omaha, Nebraska, but they've done business in Hawaii for more than 25 years.

These students want to build the future of Hawaii.  Well, at least its physical structures.

"Build houses, fix schools and public bathrooms," said Sepe Edmond, a senior at Moanalua High School.

She wants to be a brick mason after she graduates.

"Because there's a lot of heavy lifting and you put things together a lot, and you can build your own house," said Edmond.

She's at a career day for future construction workers at Honolulu Community College.  It's the same place where Mayor Hannemann announced Kiewit Pacific as the winning bidder for the rail project's first phase.

"Why am I doing it now?" asked Hannemann rhetorically.  "I want to take advantage of the fact that we need jobs."

As far as jobs, the rail project is expected to create 4,700 new construction jobs, and 10,000 total.  So a lot of these students, one day, might be working on the rail project.

"It feels good because right now, it's hard to find a job," said Edmond. "You can't find a job as easy as before."

And they're going to do it below cost.  The city estimated $570 million.  Kiewit's bid is $480 million.  So it's a savings of $90 million.

The 6.5-mile stretch will go from Kapolei to Pearl Highlands, but critics have said the project is too expensive, and won't solve Oahu's traffic problems.

"I really believe there's a mandate to move this project forward because no one has a better idea or alternative that addresses traffic congestion, job improvement, environmental sustainability and a higher quality of life," said Hannemann. "If you have it, let me hear it."

And he says federal funds will be available for this project, as well.

"There are still those out there that feel that this project will bankrupt this city. I'm here to say emphatically that will not happen," said Hannemann. "We are being fiscally prudent; we are being fiscally accountable."

It's a ten-year commitment, so many students here hope to work on the rail project.

"I think it'll be a lot of time hard, but it'll be worth it," said Edmond.

Construction should begin by the end of this year.  And contract bids for the second phase are being accepted in just four weeks.  The 20-mile rail project should be finished by 2019.