Runaway Rail

A Hawaiian Transportation Project's Budget and Timeline are Headed off Track

 
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Construction of the guideway along Kualakai Parkway in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE HONOLULU AUTHORITY FOR RAPID TRANSPORTATION

The budget for a troubled rail project in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA has gone off the rails. The estimated budget hit US$8.3 billion in July, a more than 55 percent jump over the initial US$5.3 billion slated for the project back in December 2014. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) hired Jacobs Engineering Group to monitor the project's construction phase and report any concerns.

In its report, the team at Jacobs found that the schedule is also off track, pushing back project completion by nine months, to September 2026. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) had initially slated the rail line to be operational by December 2025.

HART chairman Damien Kim, though, said a different estimation method shows HART has gained control of the costs. Mr. Kim also noted that HART already implemented many of the report's recommendations and has plans in place to address the others. HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins noted that US$4 billion of work has yet to be completed, which represents an opportunity for cutting costs as construction continues. “HART is highly confident in its ability to generate cost savings that will more than offset the difference in the…estimate,” Mr. Robbins said.

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–Andrew Robbins, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

The FTA is withholding US$744 million out of the US$1.55 billion it has committed in funding until HART delivers a recovery plan addressing the rising price tag of the rail project.

HART is also expected to vote on whether it will implement a public-private partnership, which some stakeholders have argued could curb the mounting budget and streamline the schedule. —Ashley Bishel

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