HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi held a news conference with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation leadership to announce that the 2022 Recovery Plan for the rail project has finally been approved.

“This is no small achievement for the City and County of Honolulu today,” said Blangiardi.

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Because the plan has been approved, HART is now eligible to receive the remaining $744 million in federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration.

HART said they were told by the FTA that $125 million will be released first once the Full Funding Grant Agreement is amended. The goal is to have the agreement amended by the end of the year.

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Lori Kahikina went on to explain that another $250 million will be released when HART awards the city center guideway station contract which is slated for 2024.

FTA funds cannot be used for the rail project to go beyond Civic Center, said Kahikina. However, HART can seek funds from other federal sources when making plans to go beyond Civic Center.

“We have not given up on Ala Moana and have not certainly given up on going deeper into Kapolei,” said Blangiardi. “And for that matter — and going back and ultimately someday — won’t be on my lifetime I’m sure — getting to the University of Hawaii which is what is was intended to do initially”

Independent analyses on the cracks in the concrete columns that support the elevated stations along the Honolulu rail line are also expected to be released today.

Last week, HART CEO and Executive Director Lori Kahikina provided an update on the rail project in a Zoom discussion organized by AARP Hawaii.

“The trial runs need to be done successfully and the hammerhead cracks need to be addressed appropriately before we can transfer it over to DTS and open,” Kahikina said.

“Hammerheads” refer to the concrete structures that extend from the central column to support the station platform girders. The columns come up and jet out in a T-shape, hence the name.

She said cracks were first noticed in December 2018, however, KHON2’s report of damage to parts of the guideway on Kualakai Parkway in Kapolei go back to 2015.

“We notified our Engineer of Record, and in January of 2020, they said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s shrinkage cracks. It’s just hairline,’” said Kahikina. “You know, when you pour a concrete dry, there’s always cracks. Nothing to worry about, they said.”

However, wider and longer cracks were observed this past summer, prompting more inspections to be conducted by four groups of structural engineers, including the EOR. Kahikina noted that this observation happened just as they were ready to start handing the system over.

“The Engineer of Record is the one that is responsible to make sure that everything is per their design, all the calculations, analysis, that can support those stations. By the end of September, they are slated to come back to us with some remedial fixes to the cracks,” said Kahikina.

She hopes it’s something as simple as just epoxy coating the cracks so that additional water doesn’t get into them. However, it could be more substantial, something major structurally that they have to do. And if that’s the case, and it goes longer?

“So if Hitachi is done with all the trial running tests, they meet their 98.5% in the first quarter of next year, the hammerhead cracks are not solved, we are not opening,” said Kahikina. “We are not transferring to DTS until this is settled.”

TIMELINE

  • December 2018 — Cracks first observed
  • January 2020 — The EOR concluded cracks due to shrinkage and structures are sound
  • June 2022 — Wider cracks observed
  • June/July 2022 — Inspections are done by four groups of structural engineers, including EOR
  • September 2022 — Independent analyses underway, with reports expected by end of month
  • The EOR will determine what repairs are required, then those determinations will be independently validated

This timeline was provided by Kahikina in AARP Hawaii’s forum.

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Trial runs have been happening between Kualakai in East Kapolei and the Halawa station at Aloha Stadium. This is the final series before the rail system can be put into operation.

To watch the full AARP Hawaii discussion, click here.