Former city employee named head of Honolulu rail project

HONOLULU — A former city official has been named interim leader of Honolulu’s rail project.

The board of directors for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation on Monday named Lori Kahikina as CEO, effective Friday. She’s the first woman and the first Native Hawaiian in the position, according to a statement from the transit system.

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“I am ready for the challenge of moving this important project forward,” she told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I commit to doing the best job possible for the citizens of the city and county of Honolulu and our entire state.”

Kahikina was director of the city’s Department of Environmental Services for eight years under Mayor Kirk Caldwell, whose term ends Saturday.

In that role, she oversaw a $5.2 billion wastewater project connecting Kailua and Kaneohe, which city officials refer to as the second-largest public works project next to the rail system.

Before that, Kahikina was Honolulu’s director of design and construction.

“She knows how to build infrastructure projects. She is a competent leader who knows how to complete projects within the budget set and within the time set, and has a track record of doing so,” Caldwell told Hawaii News Now earlier this month about Kahikina’s expected appointment.

Kahikina, who received a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Hawaii, will replace CEO Andy Robbins, whose contract was not renewed. She said her contract is for one year and she will be paid $275,000.

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The rail project is tackling construction through the urban core, where the relocation of utilities has proven challenging. Earlier this year, the public-private partnership to build the final phase of the project and oversee its operation was canceled because bids came in well over what was expected.

“We look forward to Lori’s leadership at this crucial point of the rail project. She has a proven record of success in difficult engineering projects and is not afraid of a challenge,” transit authority board chairman Toby Martyn said.

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