KAPOLEI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Construction has stopped on the rail columns but supplies are still coming in, namely the steel train tracks, even though they won't be needed for a couple years.
Steel never tasted so sweet, so much so Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle kissed the tracks that arrived at Barbers Point Harbor over the weekend.
"Sealed with a kiss. I'm telling you this has been a long time coming. The election made it so absolutely unequivocally blessed and confirmed and I'm looking forward to the day these things are on top of the columns transporting people," said Mayor Carlisle.
The steel is the first of three shipments for the steel wheel on steel rail tracks. The 3,000 tons in this batch is enough for about a third of the route. The city says it will make 140 miles of rail for the whole project, "including two sets of tracks (one in each direction), the third rail to power the system, turnouts along the route and track for the train maintenance yard."
"The signal is we're on track. This is 3,000 tons of rail. This is the actual track the train will operate on," said Dan Grabauskas, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation CEO.
Of course it will be about two years before construction reaches a point where they'll build the tracks. But the city bought it now hedging that steel prices will go up later. The price for all the steel for the project is $77.4 million.
"The price was right. We were able to lock in a price for the entire rail. We made a deal with the supplier on the mainland to purchase all of this American made steel rail in one chunk. We got a good price by buying it all together and we've locked in the price so the fluctuations of steel prices might rise in the future and we'll have ours ready to go when we need it," said Grabauskas.
Rail opponents say the steel is just one more thing for the city to return when it loses in court next month, referring to a federal challenge in which three issues remain to be resolved. And just like signing the construction contracts too early and having the ground breaking ceremony too soon, this is just another premature celebration.
"They'll celebrate anything to give people the impression it's a done deal, which it isn't," said Cliff Slater, HonoluluTraffic.com and rail opponent. "The initial contracts that they celebrated we now know that premature celebrating the contracts is costing us $50 million already and more to come."
Slater also disagrees with the city's claim it needed to buy the steel now to lock in the price.
"The purchase of steel rails way before they are needed in the pretense that it was necessary to lock in prices is, as usual, absurd. They did not have to buy the steel, they could have instead bought steel futures to lock in the price. That way they would not have incurred the shipping costs in the event they are ruled against in Federal Court," said Slater. "Whatever the millions of dollars they will spend in getting the steel here, it will cost them that much more to send it back to the Mainland when the courts rule in our favor. Then it will be, once more, an 'undone deal.'"
The steel is non-refundable. However the city says it could try to sell it to someone else since it is the standard size steel track. That is if the project doesn't move forward.