HART’s cost overruns for light-rail project have not reached a ceiling

Written by RT&S Staff
Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART)
HART to install equipment to resolve electricity issues.

This is when a budget shortfall turns into a budget long fall. The latest estimates for Honolulu’s first light-rail system shows the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) coming up more than $1 billion short.

New internal estimates released this week shows the cost of the 20-mile line increased by more than $830 million. The COVID 19 pandemic also has created a $450 million hole. HART’s Project Oversight Committee was supposed to meet and talk about the latest cost increase on Oct. 15.

One of the biggest factors behind the cost increase has been due to the complexity of utility relocation on Dillingham Blvd. The project was shut down and delayed by at least nine months because HART has failed to provide city department heads with complete designs for the work. Construction of the light-rail line cannot take place until the lines are moved.

Added contingency dollars and costs to keep workers on the job later also have created the financial sinkhole.

HART still has not awarded the final phase of the project to a contractor. HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins, who has been pressed by city officials to resign, told the Honolulu City Council’s Budget Committee that he wants to wrap up the procurement process before Thanksgiving.

The total cost of the project now stands at just over $9.1 billion. The state also is trying to recover from the pandemic, and when that happens Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city could try to extend Oahu’s 0.5 percent GET surcharge or try other revenue-raising measures to help pay for the project.

On Oct. 14 the city’s Budget Committee decided not to advance a measure that would have revoked a $214 million commitment toward rail construction. The move was part of the project’s federally approved recovery plan.

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