Businesses along busy urban corridor prepare for a hit as rail construction moves east

As construction for the rail project heads east, businesses along a major roadway are bracing for a drop in sales.

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As construction for the rail project heads east, businesses along a major roadway are bracing for a drop in sales.

Crews have been relocating utilities along Dillingham Boulevard from Middle Street to Kaaahi Street since July 2018.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has now revised its plan for the busy corridor.

HART officials on Wednesday briefed the City Council’s Committee on Transportation about how the agency plans to maintain its schedule and budget for work in the area.

Instead of relocating utilities and taking a break before building the guideway, which would have taken four years, HART believes it can complete a substantial amount of the work in less than two years by having crews work during the day and at night.

The increased activity all along Dillingham Boulevard is expected to start shortly after New Year's Day, once HART revises its Traffic Management Plan and gets the required permits.

"We're committed to keeping access on Dillingham Boulevard to all residents and all businesses 24/7, so we'll do that through one lane in each direction that will always be open," explained Andrew Robbins, HART's executive director.

Eki Cyclery has been saving up money in anticipation of a downturn in sales due to congestion.

"It's preferable that they do it quickly and are over with it quickly, but having them out there with all the noise and the traffic and the dust is probably going to be difficult," said general manager Jayne Kim.

The store has been receiving email updates and visits from HART employees.

The agency has been working on business outreach based on experiences with rail work in West Oahu.

HART is also looking into secondary access routes for as many companies and residents as possible.

Meanwhile, nearly 200 people jammed a town hall meeting to learn details about the final four miles of the rail line between Middle Street and Ala Moana Center Wednesday night.

“This is going to be a part of our life, this public transportation is going to be with us. And so they want to know what are the hours that it’s going to work? How much is it going to cost me to ride”," said HART spokesman Bill Brennan.

“From 2020 to 2024 or so, you will see, those four years, a lot of construction between Middle Street and Ala Moana Center,” said Brennan.

The latest timeline has the rail starting limited service between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium by early 2021, and to Middle Street by 2023. But a contract still has to be awarded for the final four-mile stretch.

“We expect to have a contractor early next year, so we can start construction on the guideway and the stations in that corridor, and then we’ll be ready to open taht segment no later than the end of 2025,” Robbins told the town hall gathering.

Plumber Dan Wade supports the rail project, but isn't a fan of all the traffic from the prep work and construction.

"In my business, I'm always on the road, traveling. This is comparable to the exact same thing as Waipahu. It's just inconvenience," he said. "It costs me time. It costs me money. I have to space my appointments out a little further because of the traffic."

HART will provide a community update about the relocation work on Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. at Kapalama Elementary School.

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