People unpaid and underpaid for rail move wait for make-good; Dillingham construction starts Nov. 12

Always Investigating

HONOLULU (KHON2) — People unpaid or underpaid for moving out of rail’s way may not know until next year that they’re entitled to a make-good from the city.

Always Investigating sought answers from HART on how they’re going about figuring out how to square up with everyone affected by re-locations that the Federal Transit Administration said were improper. The feds found most among 100 reviewed were noncompliant.

All of this has to happen while also prepping for construction along busy Dillingham Boulevard.

Back in February 2018, HART caught and self-reported problems with how its relocation staff and a contractor dealt with businesses, homes and tenants that had to be moved out of the rail right-of-way in 2016 and prior.

A federal checkup found even more problems. The FTA said three-quarters of all relocation cases were noncompliant with federal guidelines. Some were paid too much, or even double-paid for things HART had bought during property acquisition. But the FTA said many were unpaid or shorted, and they are demanding a resolution.

Always Investigating asked HART’s CEO when people who were negatively affected expect to get a check in hand if one is due to them?

“The report details what the FTA found in terms of overpayments, underpayments or no payments, so we have to sort through all of that information, go out and interview all these folks,” HART CEO Andrew Robbins said. “It’s going to have to happen over the course of next year.”

It all has to happen by end of September 2020. Robbins says HART has no log or history of complaints from people, and many entitled to a remedy may not even know yet, people such as occupants of buildings where the owner was offered relocation assistance but the tenants were not.

“To the best of our ability we’re going to go and attempt to meet with all of those folks and we want to make sure that they’re treated correctly at this point,” Robbins said, “And if they weren’t aware of a problem, we’re going to make them aware.”

Meanwhile a whole separate awareness campaign is kicking off to tell businesses, customers and residents along one of the route’s most congested stretches that Dillingham Boulevard is about to become a major construction zone for two years. Mark your calendars for Nov. 12.

“One of the things that we learned from the west heading on into the east was that really preparing businesses for the impact of construction is really, really key and important,” said Matt Derby, with HART’s public involvement division.

Derby told a HART board committee Thursday that a series of community meetings will take place this month, and they’ll be trying new things like a business outreach center in a vacant Dillingham space, monthly meetings, even a symposium with folks who weather rail’s earlier phases.

“We’re also going to have a lessons-learned panel from the west-side businesses coming in on the east side to talk about some of the things and tactics they’ve done that help navigate through construction and keep themselves up and running,” Derby said.

“One of the absolutes is 24-7 access to all the businesses and all the residents along Dillingham Boulevard,” Robbins said. “We understand that’s really important as well as keeping all the intersections open as well as keeping the sidewalks open, as well as the bus service. That’s a heavily utilized corridor.”

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