State cancels plans to build new commuter terminal at Honolulu airport

State cancels plans to build new commuter terminal at Honolulu Airport
Published: Dec. 8, 2015 at 9:56 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2015 at 1:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Plans to build a new commuter terminal at Honolulu International Airport have been canceled because the project was too pricey.

The state is in the middle of a $1.7 billion airport upgrade, which still includes plans to tear down the old commuter terminal to make way for a new inter-island concourse -- and that has folks asking where Island Air and Mokulele Airlines will go instead.

Right now, that's not immediately clear, but state Transportation Department officials say the two airlines currently operating from that location will have a home.

"They'll find a place to operate. Certainly, with this case we might have to move some things around and adjust the current facility and what we have, but they will be accommodated," said Tim Sakahara, state Department of Transportation spokesman.

Officials say the change in plans was needed because bids on the project came back about 14 percent higher than the $36 million dollar estimate.

Beyond that, officials say the rent wouldn'd be affordable.

"This is a cost recovery project. In order to for us to build this project, we had to justify its expenses -- meaning the tenants that are supposed to go there would be able to pay the lease, pay the rent and keep it going. At the time when we were designing this project, there were actually four inter-island carriers, but since then -- two of them have left the market and so the two remaining would just not be able to afford the leases that would be associated with the brand new terminal," explained Sakahara.

Aviation experts say it's critical for officials to find an appropriate and convenient location for a new commuter terminal because Mokulele Airlines and Island Air serve many smaller airports that others don't fly to.

"Besides the very important work that the commuter terminal does for people going to Moloka'i, Lana'i and destinations like that, this cancelation is also slowing down progress for the airport as a whole - it's modernization - so this is kind of a big deal," said Peter Forman, a local aviation historian.

DOT officials say this set-back has already caused about a three-year delay in the overall project. As for the new concourse, officials say construction on that will hopefully begin by mid-2017.

Both officials from Island Air and Mokulele Airlines tell Hawaii News Now they're still waiting for clarification and additional details on the state's plans.

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