Critics, supporters react to HART chair's resignation - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Critics, supporters react to HART chair's resignation

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Despite the resignation of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation's chairman, the rail transit system still faces significant challenges and critics said that even more changes are needed.

Last week, City Council Chairman Ernie Martin called for HART Chair Donald Horner and CEO Dan Grabauskas to step down in anticipation of a critical audit of the $6.5 billion project that will be released Friday. He said today that Grabauskas also must go.

"We're in a severe deficit with regards to the project, we're way behind schedule. Despite what some may say about being on time and on budget, finding a way to do it better, we failed on all counts, said Martin.

The city audit, which is still in draft form, found that HART's financial plans are not reliable, that project costs lack supporting documentation and that additional overruns and shortfalls are likely. The audit also said that there is no plan for operations and maintenance costs.

"You can reach two conclusions, one they're incompetent, two they've been deceptive," said former Gov. Ben Cayetano, a critic of rail. "I think the whole board should resign. They should be embarrassed, you know, for one not paying attention and for believing ... what Grabauskas says."

Horner said the city auditor's cost-overrun estimates have already been addressed by HART's latest projections.

"If I have been a poor communicator I accept full responsibility for that. Personally, I don't think so. Perhaps I haven't been politically correct often times but I've been very truthful," said Horner.

Former Mayor Peter Carlisle believes that Horner and Grabauskas are being made scapegoats for the cost increases.

He blames the overruns on delays caused by lawsuits filed by Cayetano and others.

"The major problem with rail is Ben Cayetano, Randy Roth and Cliff Slater because they delayed it for a year," said Carlisle.

Carlisle added that the legal challenges came at a time when the building industry was sluggish and needed the jobs. When the project restarted, the building industry was booming, adding to the rail project's construction costs, he said.

Grabauskas still has two years left in contract, which pays more than $250,000 a year. Ending his contract early will likely cost the project even more money.

"I don't think you should switch horses in the middle of the stream. I think that's a big mistake," Carlisle said.

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