Amid funding woes, rail officials say killing project could cost $3B

Amid funding woes, HART says cost of killing project the same as finishing it
Published: May. 5, 2017 at 10:07 PM HST|Updated: May. 6, 2017 at 9:40 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Shutting down Honolulu's rail transit project would cost roughly $3 billion, rail officials estimate, a number they say is roughly the same it will cost to finish it.

The dismantling costs were recently provided to state lawmakers, who were considering bills to provide more funding for the financially troubled rail system.

Now that those measures failed, there's been considerably more talk about what the city should do now.

"It doesn't make sense to shut it down at this point," said Honolulu City Councilmember Kymberly Pine. "It certainly is too late to turn back, but we can't complete a project that we won't have a reliable funding source for."

Back in 2015, the Honolulu Authority of Rapid Transportation provided similar figures for closing down the rail system. At the time, though, about one-quarter of the project had been completed – and the shutdown costs then were closer to $2 billion.

Now that HART has completed about a bigger chunk of the project, the costs to shut it down have soared.

Demolishing existing structures would cost $250 million, a fraction of the $775 million it would take to repay the Federal Transit Administration.

Officials estimate it would cost another $1.8 billion to unravel existing contracts and pay for legal claims, and that figure doesn't include future legal complaints from developers along the rail line who invested in properties with the hopes of building transit-related projects.

Rail critics don't dispute the $3 billion shutdown costs –  they just say completing the project will cost much more than that.

"That's really where the math begins to fall apart," said University of Hawaii Engineering Professor Panos Prevedouros.

"You would need $7 billion to $10 billion to get to Ala Moana. Already, the mayor was talking a few months ago at the Legislature talking about $10 billion total," he said.

Prevedouros says that even in the worst-case scenario of abandoning the trains, the fixed guideway could still be used for a bus rapid transit system.

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