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Shorter Honolulu rail plan approved by HART Board

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

The latest plan for the Honolulu rail project with a shorter route has been approved by its governing board. It now goes to the City Council for approval and then to federal officials.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Board approved the updated plan Friday. It outlines the rail project’s anticipated nearly $10 billion price tag, and the plan to end the rail line at the Civic Center — a little more than a mile away from Ala Moana Center.

The new plan echoes Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s aim of completing the project with funds currently available.

HART Executive Director Lori Kahikina says she does not know if the Federal Transit Administration will approve the updated plan — but she believes it is acceptable.

"We had to do a risk refresh with them and all of the communications on the risk refresh was the truncated scope — everything else that we've been discussing with them on our estimate at completion has been the truncated scope. So I'm fairly confident that they will be okay with that, where the scope is at Civic Center and deferral of Pearl Highlands parking garage," she said.

Kahikina says the plan will go before the council’s transportation committee this month. If approved by the city council, the Full Funding Grant Agreement will go to the FTA.

While the revised plan shortens the rail line, Blangiardi has said it does not rule out the possibility of extending it later.

"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 previously.

In the meantime, the administration and HART plan to have extensive bus service from the Civic Center to Ala Moana and the university.

There have been some concerns about rail ridership numbers since it is not going to Ala Moana. Honolulu Department of Transportation Services Director Roger Morton says updated projections show a drop from roughly 100,000 riders to 84,000, but mostly within town.

"The absolute number does go down, but both combined bus and rail number go down less than just the rail. And that makes sense because we're dropping out two stops," Morton said.

"The folks that are at the Ala Moana destination, and that's a large number, Ala Moana Center, Keʻeaumoku Street going up and down — those rail numbers will kind of go down a little bit and then we will pick up some riders on bus because of that," he said.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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