City unveils first model of rail transit car - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

City unveils first model of rail transit car

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The city of Honolulu unveiled a life-like model Thursday of what a rail transit car will look like, sort of.

The mock up, on display through the end of April at Kapolei Hale, is 14 feet high and 10 feet wide. 

But that's where the similarities end because the model is about half as long as each transit car will be. The inside looks nothing like what's planned because the display car was built for a European trade show and it has theater-like seating for people to watch a video about transit. 

"It makes the project more real, having this model here," said Ray Soon, chief of staff to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. "It's just like driving down the highway and seeing the columns come up.  You see those columns and you see that the rail's really coming." 

The city has forced the contractor, Ansaldo Honolulu, to change the rail design from two-car to four-car trains. 

"We wanted to use the full platform length and make it easier for our seniors and disabled community to board because they'd have more doors to board," said Dan Grabauskas, executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. "When you add it all together for the customer experience, four-car trains are better. And for the bottom line, it's also a plus for us, to save money." 

The city has estimated the design change will cost about $20 million less than the two-car configuration, money it wants in credit from the contractor. The city and the contractor are negotiating about that now. 

"With the two middle cars, they don't have to be as sophisticated as the two end cars, so we can actually have some savings there," Grabauskas said. 

Grabauskas said the city will not need as much track to store the 4-car trains, creating further costs savings at the rail maintenance and storage facility, because the trains will be closer together. 

Enrico Fontana, general manager of rail contractors Ansaldo Honolulu, said, "All the engineers, all the specialists are running full steam, building and designing the four-car train. Just a matter of following the change process." 

Fontana said extra design, production and labor expenses could cost his company about $4 million more for the four-car train setup. 

"And of course there are some engineering costs because we need to design and to establish the manufacturing line for this train," Fontana said. 

The transit car model will remain at Kapolei Hale for the public to see through the end of April. Individuals can drop by during the day without an appointment. The city asked school or community groups of ten or more to contact the rail office at (808) 566-2299 to schedule a tour. 

The first real transit cars won't go into service for testing for nearly two and a half years, and they will hit the tracks for service in a little more than three years. The first ten miles of the rail project, from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, are scheduled to begin service in June 2017.

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