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Honolulu rail project is exploring alternatives to Pearl Highlands parking garage

The Honolulu rail station near Middle Street under construction in July 2022.
Catherine Cruz
The Honolulu rail station near Middle Street under construction in July 2022.

Work on the last leg of the Honolulu rail is moving into first gear, but the uncertainty caused by supply chain issues could affect rail construction.

There have been issues with wheels and parts of the rail guideway, also called “frogs and shims,” and material shortages due to the pandemic could add to the delays. The wheels were supposed to arrive in August, but that could be months away.

Also, the proposed Pearl Highlands parking garage in central Oʻahu has been paused due to exorbitant costs.

"It was a very difficult decision to choose to defer that parking garage temporarily. The main reason was the finances. It's going to cost, we're projecting, $330 million to build that parking garage — 1,600 stalls, it comes out to over $200,000 per stall," said Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation CEO Lori Kahikina. "A local developer who just built a parking garage in Kakaʻako, he says it's more like $45,000. So this is astronomical."

It was supposed to create spaces for those residents who want to take the train into urban Honolulu. But the area is marshy underneath and difficult to stabilize.

"It's not a new issue. I can't speak to why that location was selected for the parking garage. But what we are committed to is finding a better way to service the Central Oʻahu and North Shore residents," she said.

HART board members have proposed building a short rail offshoot to reach Mililani Mauka or somehow partnering with Pearl Highlands Shopping Center, Kahikina said.

"But there are alternatives that jointly, not just HART, we have to talk with our partners at the city, DTS, community members, our board — let's find a better solution," she told HPR. "There's no set timeline, but the sooner the better."

Listen to the first part of this interview with Kahikina: HART CEO Kahikina warns rail construction phase through Honolulu will be disruptive.

This interview aired on The Conversation on July 12, 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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