Council approves millions in rail construction bonds, but funding issues remain

(Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
(Image: Hawaii News Now/File)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu's embattled rail project dodged another bullet on Wednesday afternoon, when city councilmembers approved a $350 million bond issue that will help avoid a potential construction shutdown in January.

The rail project still faces a shortfall of about $2 billion, and Wednesday's bond issue will only be enough to cover the project's short-term cash flow problems. The money will be used to pay for construction on the Middle Street corridor that's already under contract.

Councilmember Trevor Ozawa was the swing vote on the resolution, which needed six votes to approve.

"Today's vote is about obligations that we owe on contracts we've already signed," he said.

Supporters say cutting off funding for the project would shut down construction down, eliminating hundreds of jobs in the process.

"It is necessary to ensure that the rail work continues, that no further delays happen," said Shannon Alivado, of the General Contractors Association of Hawaii. "People up here talk about delays. Delays increase costs."

But critics claim that giving the project more money won't solve the problem.

"Would you give an endless credit card to your child? No," said Marjorie Morgan. "So why does HART have an endless credit card?"

Real estate analyst and rail supporter Ricky Cassiday likened the soaring rail costs to an unexpected pregnancy by a family member.

"You may not like her, and she doesn't look right now, and I don't know if the kid will look good," said Cassiday. "But, he's our kid and he's our future. We've got to do something. We've got to bond together to do this."

The rail's long-term financing plan will be decided by the state Legislature, which has set a special session for late August.

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