Rail expansion to Manoa, Waikiki impossible — at least on current route

Condos mean rail expansion to Manoa, Waikiki would be impossible — at least on current route

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Ala Moana station for Honolulu's rail line will be built on Kona Street between Piikoi and Konaiki streets.

But to eventually get to the University of Hawaii, the preferred route takes the rail line east on Kona Street with a mauka turn near Atkinson Drive to connect to Kapiolani Boulevard.

But the rail agency is now warning officials that the train won't be able to fit through that corridor.

"There's been recent developments, real estate developments in the Ala Moana area, which essentially block any future extension of the route," Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Executive Director and CEO Andrew Robbins said.

The discussion come as the beleaguered rail project seeks to regain public confidence following a string of negative headlines and as its price tag continues to rise.

On Friday, Robbins showed the rail board how the 45-story condo being built at 1631 Kapiolani and a 36-story tower planned near the Convention Center cut off the Kona street access to Kapiolani.

UH traffic engineer Panos Prevedouros said the situation is, simply, "poor planning."

He thinks rail planners should scrap any idea of an alternate route.

"They're talking about expansion of a system that we don't have enough funds to complete as it is. It's premature," he said.

Councilman Trevor Ozawa said he and other City Council members have been asking about rail expansion issues for two years.

"To date, we have not received an answer on how the rail system will get to the University of Hawaii without the need for significant changes," he said, in a statement. "In the past, HART has told us the system would have to go down Kapiolani Blvd. and we raised concerns about how the alignment would affect the trees and new development proposed along this corridor."

He added that he's glad to see that the rail authority is "finally taking a hard look at the project and its impacts to the surrounding community."

Robbins wants the City Council to allow HART to study and plan an alternate route to Kapiolani to accommodate a future extension of the rail line.

He also wants council permission to study which properties would need to be acquired to build that route.

Community advocate Natalie Iwasa questions the cost.

"We didn't hear anything about cost. What is the extent of this planning that they want to do?" she said.

Robbins, meanwhile, insists there are no immediate plans to begin work to extend the rail line to UH and Waikiki. The discussion, he said, is for planning purpose only.

"I don't think it would be prudent to build our line and have no opportunity to expand it in the future," he said.

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