When the city's $5.3 billion rail project becomes operational in March 2019, Oahu residents and visitors will have another option to get to and from Honolulu International Airport.
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The elevated station will be built between the airport's two multilevel parking structures near the lei stands and feature covered access to the airport's main terminal. Transit planners hope the airport's 20,000 daily workers and more than 50,000 daily visitors use the train as much as possible.
"No matter how bad the traffic is on the H1, airport viaduct (or) Nimitz, they know they're going to arrive at the airport quickly and reliably and on-time," Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a news conference Wednesday to unveil current plans for the rail station.
Still to be decided however is how the elevated train will handle luggage. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation says luggage will be allowed on rail cars, but size limits have yet to be decided. A final decision will come after consultations with The Bus, which logs more than 229,000 passenger trips every weekday.
"We will be working with HART to make sure that whatever HART allows, we accommodate on the buses," said Mike Formby, the city's director of Transportation Services. "We don't want the system to break down, it's bus and rail."
The bus rail combination is also how tourists will reach Waikiki, since the 20-mile route ends at the Ala Moana Shopping Center from East Kapolei. The city says circulator buses serving the rail line will then connect the shopping center to Oahu's main tourist hub.
"The plan is to have the circulator buses on the same schedule as rail as much as possible because we have to move not only the workforce in Waikiki, but the visitors that choose to take rail from the airport," said Formby. "It's a route that allows us to get the buses through Waikiki and back to the transit center in a shorter period of time."
HART estimates it will take 16 minutes to travel from the shopping center to the airport rail station, where 15,000 daily weekday boardings are predicted. Under an agreement with the state, the city will pay $1 to lease land at the airport for 65 years where the rail station will be built. AECOM Technical Services Inc. was awarded a $10.1 million contract to design four stations that compromise the airport station group. A contract to build the actual guideway and stations that make up the group has yet to be awarded.
Still, the rail project's May progress reports highlights several issues that could impact construction schedules and overall cost. The top three risks are as follows:
- A delay in providing Hawaiian Electric Company service power demands may impact the opening of the train's maintenance storage facility next to Leeward Community College. The current risk assessment says there's a 75 percent chance of that coming to fruition.
- There may be insufficient utility company resources to meet design and permit approvals for the project. That risk was rated at 90 percent.
- And a change in station designs may affect the guideway and result in additional construction costs. That risk was also rated at 90 percent.
Hawaiian Electric spokesman Darren Pai issued a statement Wednesday saying the company doesn't anticipate any delays in providing the rail project the resources it requires.
"Meeting the needs of our customers and our community is our priority," said Pai. "We are collaborating closely with HART to ensure the work needed to support this project stays on schedule."
Later this summer HART will hold public modeling workshops for the airport station, which could result in some changes to the design.
The rail project's environmental impact statement predicted 116,000 daily weekday riders by the year 2030, which critics have called overly optimistic.