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Special Series: Officials, Supporters and Critics Discuss $12B Honolulu Rail Project

Catherine Cruz

The Honolulu rail, planned to stretch from Kapolei to Ala Moana, is projected to cost $12.4 billion--more than double the original estimate of about $5 billion. While the project faces funding shortfalls and numerous delays, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has been trying to reach the literal and figurative finish line.

The Conversation spoke to a number of government officials, critics and organizations about the state of the rail.

HART rail document reveals 27 alternative plans to complete project - May 10, 2021 | Full Article

Credit Catherine Cruz / HPR

A public records request from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii uncovered a rail report that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit tried to keep confidential. In it was an analysis of 27 alternatives to the original plan including an underground tunnel and shifting the line to Nimitz Highway. 

Keli‘i Akina
Keli‘i Akina, head of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

Criticisms of the Honolulu rail from UH Manoa professor Panos Prevedouros - May 11, 2021 | Full Article

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. "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."

Panos Prevedouros
Panos Prevedouros, University of Hawaii civil engineering professor

Former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa appointed to volunteer HART board - May 12, 2021 | Full Article

Credit Anthony Quintano / Civil Beat
Civil Beat

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he would appoint former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa on a volunteer basis to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board. She won't accept a $924,000, six-year contract she was recently awarded by HART to serve as a consultant, the mayor said. 

Colleen Hanabusa on May 12, 2021
Former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa

Reality Check with Civil Beat: Honolulu rail ridership - May 13, 2021 | Full Article

The projected ridership for the city’s half-built, $12.4 billion train system has declined, according to rail authority Executive Director Lori Kahikina. "Later in the discussion on ridership Kahikina said she expects that ridership will increase as people grasp the benefits of the new train system, but acknowledged that 'maybe at first it’s not going to be high,'" Honolulu Civil Beat reporter Kevin Dayton told us.

Kevin Dayton
Honolulu Civil Beat reporter Kevin Dayton

Honolulu councilmember wants the rail to pause at Middle Street - May 17, 2021

Credit Heidi Tsuneyoshi/Facebook

Voices to put the pause on Honolulu’s rail project are getting louder as we learn of more problems related to the $12 billion project. Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi, who introduced a resolution calling for a pause at Middle Street, talked about whether the project can afford to build out the last four miles on the planned route. 

Heidi Tsuneyoshi
Honolulu City Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi

City Councilmember Brandon Elefante wants the Honolulu rail to reach Ala Moana - May 18, 2021

Credit Brandon Elefante/City & County of Honolulu

We spoke to Councilmember Brandon Elefante, vice-chair of the council’s transportation committee, who favors completing the rail to Ala Moana as planned. Elefante's constituents reside in Central O‘ahu and parts of Waipahu, and many work in Waikiki. He said it would be a disservice if the project fell short of Ala Moana.

Brandon Elefante
Brandon Elefante, Honolulu City Councilmember

Pro-Honolulu rail group wants the project to continue to Ala Moana - May 19, 2021

Developer Stanford Carr, chairman of Move Oahu Forward, has long supported the Honolulu rail project. The group maintains it doesn’t make sense to stop the project at Middle Street and advocates for completing the route all the way to Ala Moana.

Stanford Carr
Stanford Carr, chairman of Move Oahu Forward

City Councilmember Radiant Cordero says we need to get past Middle Street - June 1, 2021

Radiant Cordero, representative for Kalihi, lwilei, Kalihi Kai, Mapunapuna, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, Hickam, Foster Village, Ford Island and Sand Island
Honolulu City Council
Radiant Cordero, representative for Kalihi, lwilei, Kalihi Kai, Mapunapuna, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, Hickam, Foster Village, Ford Island and Sand Island

Honolulu City Councilmember Radiant Cordero represents Kalihi, including the area where many are calling on the Honolulu rail to pause construction—Middle Street. She spoke to us about why public transportation is important for her community and Honolulu as a whole.

City Councilmember Radiant Cordero
Chair of the Transportation, Sustainability and Health Committee

State Senator Lorraine Inouye wants the rail to move forward to Ala Moana - June 2, 2021 | Full Article

Cory Lum
Civil Beat

State Senator Lorraine Inouye is the vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. She has been involved in the rail project dating back to Governor Linda Lingle’s administration. A big supporter of the Public-Private Partnership, she joined us to explain her position to finish the route to Ala Moana.

State Senator Lorraine Inouye
Represents Hawai‘i's 4th District on Hawai‘i Island

Honolulu Councilmember Calvin Say talks frustrations with Honolulu rail - June 8, 2021 | Full Article

Calvin Say/Honolulu City Council

Former Hawai‘i House Speaker and current Honolulu Councilmember Calvin Say is calling on more public discussion around the project’s financing amid his frustrations with the rail. If funding cannot be secured to continue past Middle Street, Say said he supports pausing at Middle Street to reevaluate.

Calvin Say - June 8, 2021
Honolulu City Councilmember for District 5; former Speaker of the Hawaii House of Representatives

'Listening to our communities' is important for Honolulu rail, Hawai‘i State Representative Henry Aquino says - June 9, 2021 | Full Article

Hawaii State Legislature

While many critics, supporters and government officials have voiced their support or opposition to pausing the Honolulu rail at Middle Street, one state representative said he wants more information and community feedback.

Henry Aquino - June 9, 2021
Hawai‘i State Representative and Chairman of the Hawai‘i House Transportation Committee

HART's Lori Kahikina talks rail progress, calls Dillingham utilities a 'spaghetti noodle mess' - June 28, 2021 | Full Article

Official photo for HART Interim Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Lori Kahikina
Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation
Official photo for HART Interim Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Lori Kahikina

The Honolulu rail project, planned to stretch from East Kapolei to Ala Moana, is moving toward the critical final leg through Honolulu's urban core. Six months into her position as interim Executive Director and CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, Lori Kahikina shared the latest developments about the Honolulu rail.

HART interim CEO Lori Kahikina - June 28, 2021

Have something to say about the Honolulu rail? Do you intend to use it? Let us know by calling the Talkback Line at (808) 792-8217, or recording a voice memo on your smartphone and sending it to talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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