Shutting down rail project now could cost taxpayers billions - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Shutting down rail project now could cost taxpayers billions

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Dan Grabauskas Dan Grabauskas
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

In response to critics of rail who say shutting down the project could save taxpayers money, officials said Thursday that dismantling what's been built already and terminating contracts would have a huge price tag.

Only a quarter of the rail project has been completed and cost of construction has already soared by $1.5 billion.

But rail officials said shutting down the project could cost taxpayers billions.

Dan Grabauskas, CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, said dismantling the existing structures along the five miles already built would cost $150 million alone. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

"(The cost) would be pretty tremendous because we have already spent $1.5 billion to get where we are today. So the design and all of the construction we have done would be wasted," he said.

HART officials provided Councilman Ikaika Anderson a breakdown of the cost to liquidate the project. Besides the $150 million to dismantle the guideway, the costs to liquidate the project could include:

  • $450 million in refunds to the Federal Transit Administration;
  • another $450 million in other federal funds spent on rail;
  • and, more than $1.4 billion to terminate existing contracts and pay for potential legal claims.

But critics said taxpayers could actually save money if construction were stopped.

"Do we use that kind of money to stop the project but save in the long run. Because if we continue the project, the costs are going into the billions," said City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi.

"Maybe we could stop the project earlier do a kind of a compromise and stop it at Middle Street or whatever."

It's clear the issue is far from resolved.

During Wednesday's City Council meeting, members approved an extension of the rail tax surcharge and sent it back to budget committee, which will hold hearings next month.

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