Honolulu mayor, rail chief plan to collaborate on project

HONOLULU — Honolulu’s mayor and the city’s rail chief met to work on solutions to their differences concerning the ongoing construction of Honolulu’s massive rail line project.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Director and CEO Andrew Robbins met Friday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

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Caldwell said afterward that they will continue to discuss their differences over Robbins’ belief that proceeding with a public-private partnership would yield cost savings and lessen the time needed to complete the rail line stretching 21 miles.

A new preliminary plan released earlier this month indicated the cost of the state’s largest public works project could increase to $11 billion from an estimate in October of more than $9 billion.

Robbins said he agreed to move away from the partnership process if Caldwell objected and issue a “re-procurement” for a more traditional design-build contract.

Robbins’ push for the so-called P3 partnership also was opposed by most of the Honolulu City Council, which adopted a resolution urging a halt to the search for a private partner.

Seven of the nine voting members of the rapid transportation board also voted to withdraw from the partnership process, but the motion failed because city attorneys determined eight votes were necessary.

“It’s all about going forward now together, and it’s very important that we remain close partners in this very important project, and that’s certainly what we intend to do at HART and, I know, the city as well,” Robbins said Friday.

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Honolulu officials are devising a plan to complete the final 4 miles of the line. The city is seeking $250 million in grant money from the Federal Transit Administration, but the window for the funding closes Dec. 31.

Caldwell does not expect city and rail officials will be able to provide the transit administration with a detailed plan by the end of the year. Instead, they hope to send a unified explanation with enough detail to secure a one-year extension of funding availability, he said.

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