Honolulu's rail transit system could be partially operational within three years.
Rail officials said they expect to begin service on the project's first 10-mile segment between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium by 2018, as they work on building the second half of the project between the stadium and Ala Moana Center.
"It's finally going to be happening a lot sooner than we had all anticipated," said Georgette Stevens of the West Oahu Economic Development Association. "It will definitely help with traffic. As we can see, traffic just seems to get worse day after day.
The entire 20-mile project was supposed to be completed in 2020 but legal challenges and other delays have pushed the completion date a year later. The project also faces a billion dollars in cost overruns -- costs that could continue to soar, especially if construction runs into further delays.
Rail officials initially planned to begin the Kapolei to stadium route in 2017.
But plans for that partial opening were temporarily set aside as the rail officials dealt with the legal challenges and cost overruns.
Officials said they are now are working with the city to see if they can add express bus services between Aloha Stadium and downtown.
Brennon Morioka, Honolulu Authority for Rail Transit's Deputy Executive Director, said the partial opening will not only reduce traffic but will provide the project with a big psychological boost.
"There's been so much skepticism whether the rail is actually going to be built whether it's going to work," he said. "So I think now that people see the amount of guideway that's up there right now, it's already causing a sense of optimism."