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Final stretch of Honolulu rail line in disarray as board searches for new CEO

Updated: Nov. 13, 2020 at 10:57 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the rail project in crisis, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board is searching for a new CEO.

Meanwhile, current CEO Andrew Robbins is urging his critics not to change the plan for the final four miles and eight stations. That last leg to Ala Moana Center is in limbo after the bids for construction came in way over budget.

At a HART board meeting on Thursday, Robbins warned that construction costs will keep on rising so the city can’t afford another delay.

“It’s become abundantly clear that construction prices are not going to get any better by cancelling this procurement,” Robbins said.

He added he wants to stay on the job and see it through.

“Certainly an honor to be in this position. I’ve been involved in this project one way or another for 30 years. I really believe in the project and I want to see it successful,” said Robbins.

However, city leaders are ready to move on.

“We’re wasting valuable time if we continue this wild goose chase,” said Honolulu Managing Director Roy Amemiya.

That wild goose chase Amemiya is talking about the public-private partnership known as the “P3.”

The mayor and most rail board members want to scratch the P3 plan for the final leg and start fresh in hopes of saving money.

“The P3 was a big, colossal waste of time,” Amemiya said.

“At that time, we all felt that it could help mitigate risks and it could lower costs and it could provide time certainty, none of which have materialized.”

Robbins, whose contract is up at the end of the year, is urging the board to stick with the P3.

“We confirmed that the price is not going to get any better a year from now by reprocuring,” Robbins said.

Robbins has been in charge of the project since 2017 and could still be retained even though the board voted Thursday to start searching for his replacement.

“You don’t have the support of the city. You don’t have the support of the board. Where do you expect to end up? And by the way, I don’t need to remind you that at the end of the year your tenure will be over too,” said board member Hoyt Zia.

Robbins is hoping Mayor-elect Rick Blangiardi and his managing director will stick with the P3 after meeting over the weekend to talk about the options.

“My impression on the meeting was that they understood why we were advocating for P3 and why we thought it was the most appropriate way to go forward,” Robbins.

Blangiardi refused to comment on the context of that meeting.

“I told Andy Robbins that we were staying out of this as mayor-elect and that’s all there is to say,” said Blangiardi.

Blangiardi could play a crucial role deciding what happens next.

With no P3, the options include stopping construction at the Civic Center site at Halekauwila and South streets. Or building all the way to Ala Moana Center but with fewer stations then adding to the line as more money become available.

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