Scrambling for cash, city looks to private partnerships for troubled rail project

Updated: Aug. 31, 2017 at 5:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Facing pressure from state lawmakers to find new revenue sources, the city and the rail authority are taking a second look at private and public partnerships.

A previous plan to build a $200 million parking structure and highrise at the Pearl Highlands station was shelved, but now the city and the authority are eyeing that and two other locations -- the Middle Street bus terminal and Ala Moana Center -- for potential development.

"The board will be hyper-vigilant in looking for cost saving measures other delivery methods such as (public-private partnerships), " said Terrence Lee, vice chair of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

The renewed interest in these partnerships come as the state Legislature is set to approve a $2.4 billion bailout of the rail project.

Proponents say these private public partnerships allow a private developer to build parking garages, hotels or shopping centers at rail stops. In return, the developer pays to build elements of the rail system.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell says that because the rail authority owns very little land -- outside of its stations and the fixed guideways -- it's tough to attract a private partner.

But he says there is enough land at Middle Street and Pearl Highlands and that the city can look at purchasing and consolidating land near the Ala Moana station.

"Those three areas are ripe for potential (public-private partnership) ideas and it's something I'm asking HART to look at," Caldwell said.

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