HART to submit new rail proposal to FTA within 60-90 days

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With the cost reaching $8 billion, officials say it’s more likely that rail will not reach Ala Moana Center.

KHON2 went back to speak with Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board members who say they will have a better idea of what exactly we can afford within the next 60 to 90 days.

After a Federal Transit Administration report projected the cost of rail could reach $8 billion, HART board members say they have 21 days to come up with their own projection, which was at $6.8 billion last week.

“We should be looking for a realistic number and if that’s within their range, that’s what the number is,” said board member Mike Formby. “It will not be 6.8.”

“I think that it will not be that far off from what the FTA is saying, and then we’re going to have to decide what are our options,” said HART board chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa.

What are those options, and how could the project be scaled back?

“Whether we take away stations, whether we shorten the rail line, whether we go to Aloha Tower versus Ala Moana, whether we stop at Middle Street, we have to come up with a plan and a proposal to FTA within 60 to 90 days,” said Formby.

Board officials say the goal is still to bring rail all the way down to Ala Moana, but it’s a matter of getting the money to do it, so it’s just going to take longer now to get that done.

“We’ve got X amount of money. People are going to have to decide whether this is something that they want that badly and if they don’t, we’ve got the money and we’ve got to build within our means,” said Hanabusa.

Panos Prevedouros, an engineering professor at the University of Hawaii, says stopping at Middle Street is the best solution. From there, passengers can easily take buses to downtown, Ala Moana, and Waikiki, going through Dillingham Boulevard.

“Dillingham has sufficient capacity, particularly if for a couple of hours in the morning and afternoon we contraflow it, problem solved. You get to Chinatown in four to five minutes, what’s the big deal?” Prevedouros says.

But HART board members say such a change could lose ridership.

“It’s also a mindset of the rider,” Formby said. “Rail attracts a different demographic of transit rider than the bus does. There are people that will take the train everyday that will not take the bus.”

We asked HART CEO Dan Grabauskas to comment but were told he’s not available.

Hanabusa says Grabauskas is working on the numbers and has been asked to come up with the different options for the project.

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