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Special Series: Will The $12B Honolulu Rail Project Make It To Ala Moana?

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Catherine Cruz
/
HPR

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

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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

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Credit Anthony Quintano / 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

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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

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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

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 and a member of HPR’s news team. She has been a television reporter in Hawai‘i since 1983 and has won a number of awards and respect from a statewide audience. She spent more than thirty years at KITV, covering beats from government to education and health. Originally from Guam, Cruz is also a co-founder and former Board member and programming chair of Pacific Islanders in Communication (PIC). Catherine is a graduate of San Francisco State University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.
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