One ‘no’ vote temporarily derails HART deal with HECO over power lines

One ‘no’ vote temporarily derails HART deal with HECO over power lines

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The board that oversees the city's rail project has deferred a decision that could cut more than a hundred million dollars from its cost in order to keep the deal alive.

At issue is a change order in which the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation would pay for new vehicles that Hawaiian Electric Company says it needs to service high-voltage power lines that are close to the elevated rail guideway between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium.

For safety reasons, HECO said the lines would have to be placed underground at a cost of $200 million, which would be paid for by HART.

Under a new option, HART would pay just over $68 million, much of which would go toward the vehicles that have telescoping booms that would fit safely between the lines and the elevated guideway. That would cut nearly $132 million from the cost.

"In my eyes, it's a no-brainer to the public," said HART board chair Damien Kim. "I'm saving millions of dollars, tens, hundreds of millions of dollars on top of this."

"It's not only just the safety or the crews, but it's also the safety of the guideway, because we are so close," said Kathy Yonamine, HECO's project management division director.

HECO's current trucks use articulated lifts that it says have a harder time fitting beneath the rail guideway. The new trucks would telescope upward.

Eight votes were needed to approve the change order at its meeting Wednesday night, but board member John Henry Felix voted against it, making the vote 7-1.

"It doesn't pass the litmus test for fairness," he said. "We should have negotiated a much better deal."

The board immediately went into executive session behind closed doors. After emerging about 15 minutes later, the board voted to rescind the motion, and defer a decision until its next meeting.

Board chair Kim said the deferral was made to keep the order on the table. But it's still a delay that concerns him.

"If something catastrophic was to happen along the way, we may not be able to get power up everybody," said Kim. "In which case, you know what, I'm gonna say the HART board is gonna look pretty bad on top of that."

"I just want to stress to you that the other alternative is to underground all the facilities," said Yonamine.

HART will also have to deal with more high voltage power lines when construction reaches Dillingham Boulevard.

Correction: Wednesday night's first vote appeared to be an approval. We later learned that eight votes were needed to approve the change order, but it technically failed, 7-1.

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