After years of uncertainty, feds approve recovery plan for slimmed-down rail project
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced Friday that the federal government has approved a recovery plan for the city’s rail project that includes a shortened line and fewer stations.
“I’m exceptionally proud today,” Blangiardi said, at a news conference. “This is both a joyous and historic day.”
Under the new plan, the rail line will end at Halekauwila and South streets rather than Ala Moana Center. Officials have said the rail could be lengthened at a future date, but stressed the slimmed down line will contain costs.
The new plan also defers the construction of the Pearl Highlands Parking Garage and reduces the number of stations from 21 to 19. Altogether, it means the project as built will extend for 18.75 miles rather than 20.
HONOLULU RAIL PROJECT
It’s the biggest public works project in Hawaii’s history ― and it’s also been one of the biggest headaches. Here’s some recent coverage of the city’s embattled rail project, set to run from Kapolei to Kakaako once complete:
― Kalihi businesses brace for disruptions as HART awards $500M utility relocation contract
― Report: Plan to shorten rail route could shrink ridership by thousands
― HART approves draft recovery plan for troubled transit project but not without pushback
― To cut costs, city gets approval to shorten rail route, eliminate park-and-ride facility
The approval means HART is now eligible for $744 million in federal funds for the $10 billion project. The long-delayed project is currently in a testing phase in order to begin operations in West Oahu.
“This is the greatest largest CIP project in the history of this state. You know how much money it’s costing us. And for it to work, we have to gain public confidence,” said HART Board Chair Colleen Hanabusa.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the Federal Transit Administration’s approval of the recovery plan is an important step to getting the project back on track. “We still have a long way to go,” he added.
With the FTA’s funding, the city now has enough to build to the Civic Center Station.
But if it wants to build their own Ala Moana Center, it will have to seek funding from other sources.
“We are not allowed to use FTA funds to get to Ala Moana because that’s the part ... the FTA is forgiving,” said HART CEO Lori Kahikina. “But we can get other federal funds to get past Ala Moana to the University of Hawaii.”
Roger Morton, director of the city Transportation Services Department, added the Civic Center terminus at Halekauwila Street will need strong city bus connections to get riders to Ala Moana and UH-Manoa.
“We’re going to provide great service to extend rail to you UH by by a bus via electric bus, we’re going to be looking at extending our transit system with very easy connections,” he said.
Morton also said the ultimate goal is to get to Ala Moana Center and beyond.
“Rail transit in any city is not a single project,” he said.
“Whether they started them in 1950, or 1970, there’s usually a pattern of, we put this system in this way, five years later, we do something, we extend it or we do something else.”
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