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Honolulu Rail Project Pursuing Public-Private Partnerships for City Center Segment

Wayne Yoshioka

The Honolulu Rail Transit Project is hosting a 2-day forum to attract private development partners. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
HART CEO Andrew Robbins

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation – HART -- is planning to award a contract late next year for the City Center rail transit segment, the remaining 4.1 miles of elevated guideway and 8 stations.   But, HART CEO, Andrew Robbins, says relocating overhead and underground electrical and utility lines will be done first.

“We intend to award this contract by next month for advanced utility work from Middle Street, through the Dillingham corridor, through Kaka’ako into Ala Moana.  Somewhere around $250 to $300 million and the idea is to complete this work by 2022 so the utilities will be out of the way and the guideway and station work can proceed with less risk.”

The guideway and station contract will also include the Pearl Highlands Transit Center and Garage, a contract worth up to 1.5 billion dollars.  Public and Private Sector Partnerships or P-3s will be actively pursued with long-term financial incentives to save taxpayer money.  Mayor Kirk Caldwell fully supports P-3s.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Mayor Kirk Caldwell supports P-3s

“The Pearl Highlands Station is about 10 acres with a lot of possibilities mauka on land that is notdeveloped at all.  As you come into town, the Ala Moana station.  You know, if the City acquired the properties between the shopping center and Kapi’olani Boulevard and provided that for a bus transit station and affordable housing on top,   great opportunity there.”

Mayor Caldwell also says the City would be willing to assist P-3s in acquiring more land for development through condemnation.

“We’d reach out and try to acquire in an open market sale but if not interested, the next step would be condemnation.  If there’s a public private partnership, affordable housing and it’s truly public, I think we’d be looking at it.”

HART CEO Robbins says P-3s could eventually be used to help pay for future operations, maintenance and capital improvements.  Rail transit centers could also duplicate those in Asia.

“Japan, Hong Kong, places like that, they have very active and lively transit stations.  They’ve become activity centers for cities.  They’re not just merely a place to get on and off the train but they’re places that people want to go and spend time and bring their families.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

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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