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Head of Honolulu rail says the project will make it to Ala Moana despite financial setbacks

A segment of the Honolulu rail in October 2021.
Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit
A segment of the Honolulu rail in October 2021.

It’s not Middle Street and it’s not Ala Moana. It’s the stop closest to the Hawaiʻi State Capitol district, ideally to serve the employment hub for government workers — the Honolulu rail’s City Center stop at South Street.

The Conversation talked to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Executive Director and CEO Lori Kahikina about the plan to pause the route until there is enough funding to complete the rail to Ala Moana Shopping Center.

"Our plan is still to get to Ala Moana, but what we are doing is amending the contract with the federal government. We had a Full Funding Grant Agreement with them in exchange for the $1.55 billion. It's the 20 miles, 21 stations and the Pearl Highlands parking garage. So we are just amending the federal portion and stopping short to Civic Center and deferring the Pearl Highlands parking garage," Kahikina said.

"We're still going to do it, that just has to be done with other means whether it's with local funds, or with all of the Biden infrastructure bills - there's other opportunities for federal funding not with the Federal Transit Administration," she said.

The revised “recovery plan” is due to be turned in to the FTA by June 30. Before the plan is submitted, it must be approved by the HART board, as well as the Honolulu City Council.

"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," Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said in his State of the County speech earlier this month.

This interview aired on The Conversation on March 29, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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