HART puts the new price tag for rail at $12.4B, but some suggest that’s overly pessimistic

The rail cars conduct testing earlier this year.
The rail cars conduct testing earlier this year.(HART/File)
Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 6:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - HART officials said Thursday that the new cost estimate for the troubled rail project is $12.4 billion and it will take another decade to finish.

But some board members accused the agency of being overly pessimistic.

The new cost projection is $3 billion more than the amount of revenue HART expects to collect from excise and hotel taxes, some borrowing and the federal government.

Interim HART CEO Lori Kahikina and her staff said the new estimates were based on what they learned from bidding failures, including a failed effort to use a public-private partnership to build the final segment and acceptance of higher costs for construction in the urban core.

HART staff explained that the new estimated cost includes financing and a start of revenue service with passengers in March 2031.

These new estimates were announced after Kahikina met with the board of directors.

One of the board members questioned whether Kahikina was being intentionally pessimistic to avoid letting down the public again.

Kika Bukoski, a construction expert, suggested that having contractors start building backward from the Ala Moana end of the route towards the troubled Dillingham segment would shave both time and money from the project.

Kahikina said they were seriously considering that approach, but said lack of a guaranteed way to cover the financing shortfall remains a problem.

Kahikina also said that the interim opening of the system’s first half – from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium – would be delayed a year because of faults in the crossover track sections where trains move from one track to another.

She also said it is unclear whether HART or the contractors will end up responsible for the cost of fixing these flaws because HART and the operations contractor, Hitachi Rail, are in a dispute over who is to blame.

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