Honolulu rail line CEO estimates project is short $3B

HONOLULU — The new interim CEO of Honolulu’s planned rail line estimates the project is short $3 billion.

The assessment comes as the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation prepares a plan to pay for the final leg of the 20-mile project from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. The U.S. government in December gave the agency a one-year extension on a deadline to detail its plans. HART must now submit its plans by the end of the year.

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Lori Kahikina told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser the agency’s draft response showed “what we’re looking at is about a $3 billion shortfall.”

“The majority is the increase in cost and construction costs and how we do things. There’s a huge gap that we need to fill. … I don’t have the answers how to fix it,” Kahikina said.

Kahikina, who has been on the job for two months, said she has identified inefficiencies and redundancies and is planning unspecified job cuts to agency staff, consultants and contractors.

Making HART more efficient and cutting costs will not plug the $3 billion deficit, she said, but will hopefully make the rail project more attractive for federal assistance and possible private support and give taxpayers greater confidence.

She said the long-delayed project may not be done for another decade.

“At the risk of being shot by the public and other stakeholders, we are actually estimating maybe 2031 that everything is complete,” Kahikina said.

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HART’s board didn’t renew the contract of the agency’s last CEO, Andrew Robbins, after he had a public falling out with then-Mayor Kirk Caldwell when Caldwell said the city would no longer help in a two-year effort to find a private sector partner to help build the final 4 miles of the line.

Bids from private sector partners to build that eight-station segment to Ala Moana Center came in more than $1 billion over HART’s $1.4 billion budget, the Star-Advertiser reported.

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