Rail is full steam ahead for July grand opening

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Rail is full steam ahead for its summer opening. That’s according to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit and the Department of Transportation Services who updated the Honolulu City Council on Tuesday afternoon.

The embattled, and long-delayed $9.9 billion rail project is finally on track for the grand opening in July as HART Executive Director and CEO Lori Kahikina explained during a briefing with the Honolulu City Council’s transportation committee.

Check out more news from around Hawaii

“This is a huge milestone for us,” Kahikina said.

According to Kahikina, the two major concerns being addressed before handing the rail over to DTS are nearing completion.

The first critical issue is trial runs.

“We went into the second phase, which was system demonstration, and that’s a 30-day running average of being 98.5% available, and HART estimated between 45 to 60 days to have that 98.5%,” she explained. “But they actually achieved it over the weekend, April 2nd, within 35 days.”

The second big problem–fixing all of the cracks in the columns holding up the rail.

“There’s 21 out there on the west side that have these cracks,” said Kahikina. “So the epoxy injections within the cracks are complete and that’s to prevent extra water and debris from coming in.”

But she said eight other columns needed rebar post-tensioning, which was built on the mainland.

“They just shipped it last week. So it should be here next week,” she said. “And then, a couple of weeks after that we’ll start the construction on the eight hammerheads. And that is set to be done end of May.”

After that, Kahikina said, all that’s left is safety certification.

“So when do you plan on handing it over? Because we’re supposed to start in July right?” KHON2 asked.

“So in the June time-frame,” Kahikina said. “So it just depends on when all that documentation can get done.”

According to Kahikina, and DTS Deputy Director Jon Nouchi, everything else is operational, from elevators and escalators to HOLO card payment machines.

Nouchi said there will also be three park-and-ride locations available, free for rail riders when it opens.

He said they’ve already mapped out the new routes on TheBus to support the rail.

“We’re actually providing more frequent transit services to more neighborhoods along that 10.7-mile rail alignment,” Nouchi said.

But he added that some bus routes will be eliminated where rail service is available.

One of the things that Councilmember Tyler Dos Santos-Tam said they are still working to address are the rail operating hours from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We’re going to keep pushing and making sure that it will be meeting customer demand and finding ways that we can ask about those hours,” Dos Santos-Tam explained.

According to Kahikina, they are “contractually obligated” to end service at 7 p.m. and extending those hours beyond that would come at a cost.

Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You

The City Council Transportation Committee plans to have three more informational briefings with HART and DTS to discuss their progress and give the community to ask any questions about the project prior to its scheduled opening in July.