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Shortened Honolulu rail plan approved by Federal Transit Administration

FILE - A Honolulu rail train at Waipahu Station.
Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation
FILE - A Honolulu rail train at Waipahu Station.

The Federal Transit Administration has approved the Honolulu rail's financial recovery plan which outlines a truncated version of the rail line, 1.25 miles short of Ala Moana Center, and postpones construction of a parking garage in Pearl Highlands.

The soon-to-be amended Full Funding Grant Agreement means $125 million will be released by the FTA, Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation CEO Lori Kahikina announced at a press conference Friday.

A further $250 million of the $744 million withheld is contingent on the award of a construction contract for the City Center guideway and stations, HART said.

Kahikina said the projected total cost of the Honolulu rail remains about $10 billion, funded mostly through the state general excise and Honolulu transient accommodations taxes.

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

The new plan means the rail's final stop will be the Civic Center station at the intersection of Halekauwila and South streets in Kakaʻako. The rail will be 18.75 miles long with 19 stations.

It also defers the construction of the $330 million Pearl Highlands parking garage. HART board members have been discussing alternatives such as partnering with a shopping center parking lot nearby.

The FTA is conducting an environmental reevaluation of the new plan, HART said.

Blangiardi announced the recovery plan in March, saying that while the revised plan shortens the rail line, it does not rule out the possibility of extending it in the future. The plan was submitted to the FTA in June.

"HART remains committed to completing the full scope of the project to the Ala Moana Transit Center in a subsequent phase of the project," the rail authority said in a press release.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, said in a statement, "We still have a long way to go, but this is an important step that recognizes the work HART and the city have done to provide more accountability and get this project back on track.”

Meanwhile, the finished parts of the rail system are undergoing a final series of testing before going operational. The tests cover the trains, stations, systems and operating personnel, and simulations of normal and emergency operating scenarios.

While there is no set schedule for when the trains will run, HART says multiple trains will be moving between the East Kapolei and Aloha Stadium stations up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation
The original, unchanged plan for the 21 Honolulu rail stations.

Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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