First 50 rail transit columns going up - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

First 50 rail transit columns going up

Peter Carlisle Peter Carlisle
Dan Grabauskas, HART CEO Dan Grabauskas, HART CEO

KAPOLEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Take a look around the site where the first Honolulu rail transit pillar is going up and there's nothing but fields, and the vegetables won't be the ones riding the train. That's been one of the beefs from opponents. But the city says as the train comes so will development.

Crops aren't the only thing sprouting up in Kapolei. In the middle of the cantaloupe and corn fields is the first of what will be the pillars for the elevated Honolulu rail transit tracks.

"It's an exciting time, we're looking toward the future and right back there the future is now," said Peter Carlisle, Honolulu Mayor.

You'll see the first pillars above ground in about four weeks. There will be one every 120 feet. There will be 50 columns in this first section to be built in the next six months.

That's also about the time when we'll know if the federal government will pitch in $1.55 billion. We could also know the outcome of a lawsuit by rail opponents and we'll know who the next mayor of Honolulu will be. They are all things that could potentially halt rail.

"What if, what if, this is going to occur, plain and simple and there is going to be development out here and we are not going to promise people that have been out here for 20 years that they are going to get relief from the traffic and then suddenly take it away from them," said Mayor Carlisle.

Still the rail authority maintains its cheaper to build and tear down than do nothing.

"I really regret that statement being made. It just misleads people into believing that we may not be so certain that this will be done. But I think the bottom line is we all believe the federal money is coming. We believe this is the right thing to do for the future of Honolulu. There is no reason to delay," said Breene Harimoto, Honolulu City Councilmember.

The simplest equation provided by HART is it would be $119 million to build the 50 pillars and demolish them if needed versus $199 million to wait and pay all the contract penalties and other costs.

"It's a cascading effect. It's a domino. Every future contract is going to cost a little bit more and a little bit more and when you add all the contracts that have been let plus all the contracts that would go out a year later now you'd see a significant increase in overall costs for this project," said Dan Grabauskas, HART CEO.

"It's bad management to write a contract like that and its bad management to award a contract when you set impossible timelines to meet," said Ben Cayetano, Honolulu Mayoral Candidate. "I think it's a dumb move. I think they should wait and negotiate an agreement with the contractors, you can do that. But to start now when so many things may affect the entire system, they may not get the money from the federal government, we may win our lawsuit, and I'll get elected. When you have those kinds of things facing you you should be cautious but those guys are never cautious with the taxpayer's money."

"The column you see beginning construction today will be standing there 100 years from now. That's what I believe and I really hope that as this reality becomes concrete today that people will really see that is going to happen," said Grabauskas.

"I like to say this, although it's not very complimentary to myself, its idiot mayor proof because of the Hart board. It's their decision it's not the mayor's decision," said Mayor Carlisle.

As for jobs, Kiewit has about 250 people working on the rail right now. Management is still working on getting an exact count on how many are local versus mainland workers.

"We're not trying to keep it hidden. It's just sometimes hard for us to determine if someone is local or not because I don't know if there is a clear cut answer in every circumstance," said Lance Wilhelm, Kiewit Senior Vice President.

The fact is there are more than shovels in the ground. There's the foundation for the yet to be fully determined rail future.

This area is farmland now but it's the proposed site of the Ho'opili development project which would add more than 11,000 homes. That however is also yet to be finalized. While the train's not up there is already a lot riding on this land.

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