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A rail station was changed to save money. Now, a do-over could cost millions

To cut costs in 2013, rail officials decided to scrap plans for the Pouhala station's makai...
To cut costs in 2013, rail officials decided to scrap plans for the Pouhala station's makai entrance, leaving just one entrance on the mauka side.
Published: Mar. 6, 2019 at 7:00 PM HST
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WAIPAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A design change made to save the Honolulu rail project money may now end up costing millions to reverse.

The Pouhala station sits above Farrington Highway near the Waipahu Transit Center.

To cut costs in 2013, rail officials decided to scrap plans for the station's makai entrance, leaving just one entrance on the mauka side.

But with so many homes and businesses located on the makai side of the highway, residents are worried about crossing four lanes of traffic to get to and from the station.

"It actually could cause more accidents," said resident Kawehi Mossman. "They should build two entrances just to help people have easy access on both sides."

The head of the rail authority and the city agree that restoring the makai entrance is the right thing to do, but it's not a simple fix.

In a council committee hearing last week, HART CEO Andrew Robbins said along with construction costs, because the rail station is located on the flood plain, they would also have to buy more property for flood mitigation.

"We have a low estimate of $8.1 million and a high estimate of $14.6 million," said Robbins.

Robbins says HART can look for savings somewhere else in the rail project or find another source of money to pay for it.

Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi expressed concerns with increasing any costs to the already $9.2 billion project.

"With no disrespect to the Waipahu community, I think we have larger issues at hand as far as actually getting stations done that haven't yet been built," Tsuneyoshi said.

Other councilmembers are pushing HART and the city to consider different funding options, including the federal government.

"I think the benefit will far outweigh the cost in the long term for people who utilize that particular makai entrance," said Councilmember Brandon Elefante.

HART officials say its unclear how much money was saved by eliminating the makai entrance years ago, since that part of the project was never bid out.

The Pouhala station is scheduled for interim opening next year.

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