Tensions between city, HART could lead to more costly rail delays

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Updated: Sep. 29, 2020 at 11:37 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The growing conflict between Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which came to a head last week when the city canceled its participation in the final leg of the rail project, is threatening to cause further delays and cost overruns.

Emails obtained by Hawaii News Now show that utility relocation work along the Dillingham Boulevard corridor ― already a major obstacle for the project ― is sputtering due to the city failure to issue variances for the work.

In one email, Environmental Services Department Director Lori Kahikina flatly rejected HART’s request for a variance to relocate large power lines near a major underground water line.

“I have been pretty clear that no variances will be granted. If you plan on presenting what options were presented and why they won’t work and you’re planning on still asking for variances, please don’t waste my, (Board of Water Supply Manager Ernie Lau) or the Managing Director’s time," Kahikina wrote in Sept. 17 email.

HART said not having those variances along the City Center leg of the project can cause delay of anywhere from 9 months to up to four years.

But the city said it’s HART’s fault for not providing maps, drawings and other documentation for the variances.

“Permitting has now come to the forefront with accusations that the permit delays have been causing the trouble at HART," Kathy Sokugawa, acting Department of Planning and Permitting said in HART board meeting last week.

“So therefore, I personally became involved, personally involved almost on a day-to-day basis,”

City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi said the lack of cooperation is troubling.

“Why can’t we work together to make it work so that a city project can have the proper permits. It’s hard to understand what’s happening," she said.

“Why aren’t we trying to finish a city project? Everyday that it gets postponed, the cost goes up.”

She said she hopes that a new mayor will build a better relationship with HART.

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