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Mayor Rick Blangiardi says he wants the Honolulu rail project to stop before Ala Moana

Crews prepare the truss near Pearl Harbor station
Robert ʻAukai Reynolds
City & County of Honolulu; Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation
Crews prepare the truss near Pearl Harbor station

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s second State of the City speech outlined plans for a $4.1 billion budget. But he also made a surprise announcement about a revised recovery plan for Honolulu’s rail project — a plan he is submitting to the Federal Transit Administration in June.

Blangiardi said he wants the city’s rail project to stop before the route reaches Ala Moana — in Kakaʻako.

He stressed that the FTA has not yet signed off on the plan, but he contrasted the existing Full Funding Grant Agreement, or FFGA, signed by Mayor Peter Carlisle in 2012.

The original plan calls for 20 miles of rail, 21 stations, and 20 four-car trains traveling from East Kapolei through downtown Honolulu to Ala Moana Center.

"In submitting our recovery plan to the FTA, we will propose that we amend the FFGA to the following scope: 18.75 miles or 19 stations. Build it from East Kapolei through downtown, to the Civic Center Station — which is approximately Halekauwila and South Street — which is 1.25 miles and two stations short of Ala Moana Center," he said.

Blangiardi says the plan also defers the construction of the $330 million Pearl Highlands parking garage.

The proposed changes — along with expected revenue sources — bring the expected costs under $10 billion, he said.

"Now the current combined state GET/TAT, and the new city TAT, the FFGA $1.55 billion, and the city’s original commitment of $214 million will provide approximately $9.8 billion in projected funds, and consequently this also provides us the financial capacity needed to complete the project as we are proposing," he said.

The revised plan "represents $9.1 billion in construction, and $650 million in financing costs with a little cushion," he said Tuesday.

A 2012 estimate was about $5 billion. In 2021, it was expected to cost as much as $12.4 billion.

While Blangiardi says the revised plan shortens the rail line, it doesn’t rule out the possibility of extending it.

"We still believe in a future connection someday of rail to UH Mānoa. But for now, we must move forward with a project that is functional and within the city’s financial means."

He said the revised plan still includes stops near major employment centers such as Pearl Harbor, the airport, and downtown Honolulu.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation

In the meantime, Blangiardi says the rail authority is resolving wheel alignment issues. He anticipates interim service of the rail line, from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, to begin at the end of this year or early 2023.

So far, 75% of the rail’s guideway is completed, and the city has received 18 car trains.

As for the rest of his budget plans, the mayor said he wants to address homelessness, build more affordable housing, and improve infrastructure and city operations.

Read the entire State of the City in the box below or click here to open a new tab.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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