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Honolulu costs spiral to USD12.4bn

Ground-breaking for the Honolulu Rail Transit project took place in February 2011. The first section, East Kapolei – Aloha Stadium, could open in 2021, although officials say it may take until 2031 before passengers are carried the full 32km length.

On 18 March Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) officials revealed that cost estimates for the island’s troubled light metro project have risen to USD12.4bn – and that it may take another decade to finish.

The new cost projection for the 32km (20-mile) elevated light metro linking East Kapolei and Ala Moana is almost USD3.6bn above the revenues HART expects from local taxes, borrowing and federal government grants. The figure includes financing and a start of revenue service in March 2031.

Construction on the Dillingham corridor, between Kapālama and Iwilei stations on the eastern section, stopped in early March due to incomplete design drawings and complexities related to utility diversions, Interim CEO Lori Kahikina said, although work on the elevated guideway by the airport was continuing.

Inauguration of the first section of the 21-station driverless system, 17km (10.5 miles) between East Kapolei and Aloha Stadium, has also been delayed. Issues relate in part to crossovers on this section, with the agency in dispute with contractor Hitachi Rail over a recently-revealed problem with the wheels of the new trains which do not fit the crossing points (or frogs). The first of 20 four-car Hitachi Rail Italy-built trainsets was delivered to the island in 2016.

In an effort cut costs, Ms Kahikina said the elevated guideway might be moved to the inland side of Dillingham Boulevard instead of the median due to high voltage lines and other utilities that require relocation. This decision would depend on negotiations with landowners such as the University of Hawaii.

Following an internal review, the agency has reduced staffing levels this year, and eliminated a number of consultant roles. “We’re paying layers upon layers of not just HART staff, but consultants and contractors
and we need to cut that waste out,” Ms Kahikina told local media. “Our operating cost is about USD12m per month. We need to tighten our belts to cut out any waste.”