HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the Honolulu rail project’s already-bloated price tag could increase to $11 billion and its start date could be pushed back up to six years.
“We’re talking about a $1.1 billion dollar difference between what HART says it’s going to cost and what I believe is a more realistic number,” Caldwell said, during a news conference Wednesday.
He blamed the increases on financing problems and construction delays that could push the project’s start date to 2033.
“I’m hoping it’s more like 2030 but if things take longer in relocating utilities ― if there are challenges with funding ― it could take us out to 2033.”
The rail authority disagrees with that timeline.
“We’re now looking at a completion of the entire project in 2027, 2028 time frame,” said Andrew Robbins, CEO for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.
Right now, HART estimates the project’s total costs at $9.9 billion but the agency will likely increase their estimates soon. Sources said, however, the updated costs won’t be nearly as high as the city’s.
Even the rail project’s harshest critics think the mayor’s 2033 completion date estimate is overly pessimistic.
“He pushed it all the way to 2033. That’s 13 years. It’s like we’re restarting the project from scratch,” said University of Hawaii Civil Engineering Professor Panos Prevedouros.
Under the city’s estimates, contractors would be building the remaining four miles of the guideway and the rail stations at a rate of about 1/3 a mile each year, which is very slow by most standards.
“Inch by inch, foot by foot ― yes,” Prevedouros joked.
But he also believes that both the city’s and HART’s cost estimates are overly optimistic.
“My anticipated total costs for this total project will be in the order of $13 billion,” he said.