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Honolulu Rail Critic, City Councilmember Push For Middle Street Endpoint

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Longtime Honolulu rail critic Panos Prevedouros advocated that the project should hit pause, finish the line to Middle Street and the route should be reassessed. A city councilmember introduced a resolution this week with a similar stance.

A vocal critic of the Honolulu rail project, UH Manoa civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros has never held back on his opinion of the decision to build the mass transit system.

The beleaguered project, led by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, now has an estimated price tag upwards of $12 billion and is years behind schedule.

"I'm totally exhausted about the inability of our decision-makers to do the right thing, after all the proof they have in front of them," he said. "These are crazy numbers by any standard of infrastructure delivery of project delivery."

City Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi recently introduced Resolution 21-116 which asks the HART board to temporarily halt the project at Middle Street. It also asks the board to suspend procuring future contracts and land purchases for the final leg to Ala Moana Center.

Under her request, the suspension would be lifted when funding to complete the project is secured and a revised plan is sent to the council and the Federal Transit Administration

Like Prevedouros, Tsuneyoshi wants current work between East Kapolei and the Middle Street station to be finished.

"There is no reason why the rail cannot be operational in two years from Kapolei, where it's already there and started, all the way to Middle Street," Prevedouros said. "The rest is extremely challenging. We're talking about a 4-mile bridge through the core of a high-density area with a lot of problems with foundations."

The utility corridor on Dillingham Boulevard will be particularly difficult to relocate, HART has said.

As for the land bought along Ala Moana Boulevard in preparation, Prevedouros said the downtown properties should be sold for profit and the proceeds returned to taxpayers.

"Given how prices have moved, that was the only smart move that HART did," he said. "They bought quite a few things between 2012 and 2018. Even with the minimal raises of 10% to 20%, they're going to make a profit."

In a document uncovered by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a consistent concern about stopping at Middle Street is the possible loss of federal funding from the FTA--about $800 million.

"Are you kidding me? We have delivered 16 out of the 20 miles," Prevedouros said. "If we get our ducks lined up, it will be fully operational in two years and we're talking about penalties? Because there is an agreement about Ala Moana? I mean, give me a break."

"If you want to be extreme about it, the FTA has been a co-conspirator in ballooning the cost with their requirements and with their ill advice," he added.

This story aired on The Conversation on May 11, 2021.

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