HART Expects Rail Project Launch By July 2023

Written by Kyra Senese, Managing Editor
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Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has announced that while a grand opening date for the first segment of its rail project remains to be determined, the authority anticipates service will launch within six months.

The partial opening of the rail line has seen repeated delays in recent years as HART faced construction issues and cost concerns, a local news report said. 

This year’s interim opening would include the western end of the $10 billion rail project. The 19-mile system, including the final eight miles of the transit line through Honolulu’s downtown, is expected to open in the spring of 2031.

On the first 11 miles of the system, repairs are underway to mend cracks in some concrete piers that support westside rail stations, and the authority said it has been conducting trial runs of the trains since August.

HART Executive Director Lori Kahikina said the goal is to enter a system demonstration phase within the next couple of weeks that is expected to continue for 45 to 60 days. City Department of Transportation Services Director Roger Morton told the HART board last week that the earliest the public could expect to use the system would be sometime around June to July of 2023. 

According to the city’s 2022 rail recovery plan, operating and maintaining the rail system will cost $103 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1—less than half the cost of the city’s bus system, TheBus, which is expected to cost $264 million for the same fiscal year. 

As part of the Federal Transit Administration accepted Recovery Plan, HART and the City and County of Honolulu said officials have amended the scope of the project to reduce the federally funded original Full Funding Grant Agreement scope by postponing the last 1.25 miles of guideway, the final two stations—Kakaʻako and Ala Moana—and the Pearl Highlands Parking Garage, according to HART. The revised plan will yield 18.75 miles and 19 stations.

HART is collaborating with the FTA on an amended document for environmental clearances proposed in the Recovery Plan. In a separate project phase, an extension from the Civic Center Station to the Ala Moana Transit Center and a parking facility will be completed, according to the agency’s website. 

HART predicted in the fall of 2015 that interim revenue service for a portion of the rail line would be available in mid-2017, but that was not the case. Mayor Rick Blangiardi was also quoted in a local news report before Christmas in 2021 saying that he expected interim service to begin in August of 2022, however the service launch remained stalled. 

Kahikina, however, told the agency’s board of directors in recent weeks that the transportation authority plans to provide service on the first 11-mile segment of the system from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium to the city “within the next few months.”