Residents, businesses brace for rail construction through urban core

Rail construction begins between Middle Street and Ala Moana Center
(image: HART)
(image: HART)
The Oahu rail project is the state's largest public works project. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
The Oahu rail project is the state's largest public works project. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: HART)
(image: HART)
(image: HART)
(image: HART)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Rail disruptions will be moving deeper into the city as crews start a four-year, $400-million project to relocate utility lines in the city center section.

The city center section spans 4.2 miles from Middle Street to Ala Moana Center.

Some tightly packed neighborhoods will have to put up with road closures, noise and probably a drop in business.

"The construction is gonna cause some upheavals and we're prepared on the neighborhood board for people to show up and vent," said Downtown-Chinatown Neighborhood Board member Willis Moore.

Nan Inc. is the lead contractor for the utility project.

On Monday, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) and Nan Inc. officials held a strategy session at Aloha Tower.

They asked the public to help with the plan to minimize the disruption.

"A lot of people who live in Chinatown either don't own an automobile or they don't drive much. So, they are interested in what's going to be blocked," Moore said.

Starting next week, crews will be digging up water, sewer and gas lines as well as fiber optic and power lines.

But officials said they will be doing things differently than before.

"We've learned some lessons from the work we've done on the west side. We may have learned them the hard way, but I think the idea here is to do things a little differently than we did on the west side," said Bill Brennan, HART Director of Communications.

Crews will start by relocating utilities that are underground to make way for the guideway and the stations.

HART officials say lane closures will be only two blocks at a time.

"Instead of, for instance Dillingham Blvd, tearing it up from Middle Street to Iwilei, we'll do a section of Dillingham from Puuhale to Middle Street and move the utilities under there that we need to. At the same time, we may be in Kakaako," Brennan said.

Brennan said crews already started potholing in some areas in Kalihi near Dillingham Blvd. and Kaaahi Street.

He said specific details about road and lane closures will be announced later. Monday night's meeting was a chance to get input from the residents and business owners who will be facing years of disruption.

"Let us know I have a business that takes deliveries on Tuesday mornings between 9 and 11, I can't have you blocking my driveway. We make note of that," said Brennan.

The utility relocation portion of the project is expected to be completed in 2022 and the final project's is expected to be done by the end of 2025.

Brennan said more meetings will be held to keep the community informed.

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