A request for public documents from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii discovered a rail report that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit attempted to keep confidential. It contains an analysis of 27 alternatives to the original plan, including an underground tunnel and moving the line to Nimitz Highway.
The ailing Honolulu railway that is slated to run from Kapolei to Ala Moana is expected to cost $ 12.4 billion, more than double the original projection. The 2008 estimate was $ 4 billion.
âA bigger issue is that the rail was supposed to be partially usable by 2018 and completed by 2020. The last date is now 2031, 10 years from now and I think the public is very concerned about why the costs have skyrocketed and the delays have been enormous, âsaid Keli’i Akina, president and CEO of the institute.
Although the project faced funding shortfalls and delays, HART analyzed behind closed doors the route and technology options that could help it complete the project faster and more cheaply. The February 21 document is titled âCity Center Guideway and Stations: Preliminary Draft Qualitative Evaluation of Potential Project Changesâ.
Akina said transparency is important.
âThe copy was marked as confidential, not for distribution, which puzzled us a bit as there was really nothing confidential about it,â he said. “What is amazing is that there has been a careful analysis of 27 alternative paths, it seems someone is taking this seriously enough.”
Alternatives include terminating the rail at Middle Street and switching to public transit by bus; ending at Middle Street and moving to a lighter rail system; the creation of a separate railway system on the road from Kalihi to Ala Moana; switch from pulling power to Maglev technology; move the route of the route to the Nimitz highway; and dig a tunnel under Dillingham Boulevard to avoid public service conflicts.
With each option, a consistent reserve is the possible loss of federal funding from the Federal Transportation Authority – approximately $ 800 million. No one at HART asked the FTA if it would actually lose that funding, Akina said.
âThere is concern that if another alternative is used, we will have to reimburse this,â he said.
Whether someone is for or against rail, people are concerned about finances, Akina told Hawaii Public Radio.
âPeople need to know what the options are, what the costs are and what the real future of rail looks like. This is the only way for rail to regain public trust, âhe added.
This story aired on The Conversation on May 10, 2021.