HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Of the Honolulu rail system's 21 stations, the Middle Street station in Kalihi is planned to be the only one built above water.
Rail officials say the current location over the Kalihi Stream is expected to be less expensive than putting it on top of Kamehameha Highway. But critics, and even some former HART insiders disagree.
"At a minimum, the foundation problem will double in cost. And I'm talking minimum compared to dry land," said rail critic and University of Hawaii civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros.
The average station costs $35 million to $40 million. Officials at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation said costs for the Middle Street station will likely be $5 million higher.
But Prevedouros said he expects the costs to be in the $60 to $70 million range due to the complexity of building over water.
He said HART could have located the station further east on what is now a parking lot at First Hawaiian Bank's data center, but chose not to.
First Hawaiian's former CEO was chairman of HART for years. Prevedouros and community activists question whether that influenced the decision to leave most of the First Hawaiian parking alone.
"I don't know if it's taking care of their own or some other sensitivity to the property. Or it could be some malfeasance there," Prevedouros said.
HART said it treated First Hawaiian no differently than any other land owner along the rail line.
A HART spokesman said the station's design was part of a "long and exhaustive" process to minimalize the "impacts to each landowner or ... the community."
Prevedouros and other rail critics said that a proposed forensic audit of HART's operations would have shed more light on HART's decision to build the Middle Street station at its current location.
Earlier in the week, the rail board shelved an audit plan, saying it already has a number of third-party reviews, such as those conducted by the American Public Transportation Association and the federal government's Project Management Oversight Contractor.
"It's not my intent to muck around in the past and try to figure out what we did wrong in the past. It's more trying to get forward," new HART board member Ember Shinn said.
"What I like about the APTA peer review and the PMOC reports is that it primarily talks about management and process as opposed to we made a screwy, stupid decision back then."
But critics aren't satisfied.
"People who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. If you don't learn from your mistake, how can you possibly improve in the future," Prevedouros said.