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Honolulu City Council Approves Rail Funding Extension

Wayne Yoshioka

The Honolulu City Council approved the measure to enable the city to receive money to continue funding the rail transit project.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

The Honolulu City Council cleared the way to receive up to $2.4 billion from the state to complete the Honolulu rail transit project to Ala Moana Center.  The funding was approved by the legislature and the governor but Mayor Kirk Caldwell says the state gave the city nothing.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell asked for Councilmember support for the bill.

“Yesterday, I heard folks say that the state has given the city over $7 billion.  To clarify, the authority to extend the county surcharge.  Authority is one thing but when you have to stand up and say, “Yes, I will vote to extend this surcharge for another 3 years.”  It’s not a popular thing to do but it is absolutely the correct thing to do for the future of this island.”

Councilmember Trevor Ozawa was absent from the Council meeting.  But, the 8 other members supported the bill including Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, who is opposed to a steel wheel on steel rail system.

“Many have been really concerned about the mismanagement of the project and that’s why we are almost 3-billion over budget and years behind schedule.  And that’s why I’m voting for this because it will bring an end to the rail getting to Ala Moana.  But then, let’s see what happens.”

Councilmembers asked the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Interim executive director and CEO, Krishnia Murthy, if the estimated $8.165 billion construction budget was sufficient.  

“Procurement for the City Center guideway and rail stations, we’re going to re-procure that contract.  That gives us an opportunity to be innovative and creative in procuring that contract.  Hopefully, with that approach, we will be able to keep the cost within the project estimate.”

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
HART executive director and CEO, Andrew Robbins, was introduced at the City Council meeting.

After the vote, HART executive director and CEO, Andrew Robbins -- on day two in his job -- was asked what he plans to do now that the legislature did not fund HART operations to the tune of 281 million dollars a year.

“The operating budget, that’s the money that’s needed to operate HART, the bill, I know, prohibits the use of the excise tax now but we’ll work with the city to determine how that is funded.”

Robbins was also asked about a reported 151 million dollar annual marketing budget.  He says he has not seen that in HART’s budget.

“We do public outreach, which is important and that will continue but marketing is something I believe has already been reconciled, from what I’ve seen.”

The HART Board of Directors is scheduled to meet Sept 14thone day before the deadline to submit their new financial plan the Federal Transit Administration.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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