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Honolulu City Council eyes HART budget amid proposal to stop short of Ala Moana

Catherine Cruz

The Honolulu City Council gave initial approval Wednesday for next year’s budget for the agency overseeing the rail transit project.

But it came with some reservations after Tuesday’s announcement by Mayor Rick Blangiardi that the train should be stopped short of Ala Moana Center.

Councilmembers must approve the budget for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation for the next fiscal year beginning in July.

Concerns were raised over the validity of the budget figures in light of the proposal to stop the line at the Civic Center station in Kakaʻako.

HART must send a plan to the Federal Transit Administration by June 30, detailing how it will pay for the completion of the rail system.

Council Chair Tommy Waters told HART staff that they need to provide enough time for councilmembers to evaluate the plan.

"In order for us to have meaningful discussions and decision-making, we’d like to get it as soon as possible.  It doesn’t have to be in its final form, but in order for us to make informed decisions, and the community to have a way to comment on something that’s the largest infrastructure bill and project in history, it’s not fair to get it to us at the last minute," Waters said.

The cost of running the rail line to Ala Moana is estimated at over $11 billion, which would leave a deficit of about $1.3 billion.

HART CEO and Executive Director Lori Kahikina said she believes they have enough money to reach the Civic Center station, which would serve a key area of government workers in the Hawaiʻi State Capitol district.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation

Blangiardi's proposed changes — along with expected revenue sources — bring the expected costs under $10 billion, the mayor said.

While Blangiardi said 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.

Scott Kim was a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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