State Lawmakers Want Cost Comparison of Street Level vs Elevated Rail System

For Immediate Release

March 10, 2017

Deeply concerned about the escalating costs of the Honolulu rail system, Hawai‘i State Rep. Cynthia Thielen (Kailua-Kaneohe Bay), today joined House Majority Leader Rep. Scott Saiki, Finance Chair Rep. Sylvia Luke, and Judiciary Chair Rep. Scott Nishimoto in introducing HCR103. This Resolution directs the State Auditor to conduct a cost comparison between completing the rail system from Middle Street to Downtown Honolulu with street level versus an elevated rail system.

Explaining that the public has lost confidence in the ability of HART and the City & County of Honolulu to complete the rail system without raising taxes, Rep. Thielen said that the public has not received accurate or reliable cost projections for the rail’s burgeoning price tag.

“Switching this portion of the elevated overhead guideway to street level is the best solution for maintaining the historical ambiance, as well as honoring the cultural integrity of Honolulu’s waterfront, Chinatown, Downtown areas and Civic Center,” said Rep. Cynthia Thielen adding that this legislation will also provide a reliable assessment of the true costs of the rail system.

Originally HART’s expected cost to build the Honolulu rail system was $5.2 billion, increased to $6.8 billion in May 2016, and was projected at $9.5 billion in December of 2016.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which committed $1.55 billion for Honolulu to build the 20-mile rail system, has indicted that this option would be one of several acceptable alternatives for project completion which would allow the City to keep its federal funding for the project.

“We cannot repeatedly ask our constituents to cut their family budgets in order to pay for this mismanaged project without a reasonable solution to this financial debacle,” said Rep. Thielen, noting that the Auditor’s report would be due at the beginning of December 2017.