Honolulu's $5.3 billion rail project has passed another critical milestone as sections of guideway that will holdup the elevated train are being placed inbetween columns in East Kapolei.
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Rail contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. is utilizing sliding trusses to erect the guideway segments on top of existing columns.
"The truss never has to come off of the guideway, it can stay up in the air and continue to process forward," explained Lance Wilhelm, senior vice president of Kiewit's Hawaii operations.
The guideways are being erected on land that could eventually be occupied by 11,750 homes as part of D.R. Horton's Hoopili project. Three-foot-high sound barriers attached to the sides of the guideway are supposed to keep things quiet for future residents who will live next to the rail line.
"It's called continuous welded rail, so there is no clickety clack that you hear," said Dan Grabauskas, executive director and CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which is tasked
with building the rail project. "The quickest way that I've been able to describe it to folks is it's going to be quieter then the buses going down the city streets."
The 20-mile rail line is scheduled to begin full operations in March 2019, and when it does, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said some city bus routes like the Makaha Express will be eliminated. City officials say there's no need to provide both rail and bus service on Oahu's main east-west corridor along the H1 Freeway.
"We'll take those buses and use them in other areas to bring people to the rail station," said Caldwell. "It's going to be quicker because from here, from the Kroc Center to the Ala Moana Shopping Center, is about 42 minutes."
The first 10 miles of the rail system from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium should be up and running in 2017. When the entire project goes online two years later, operation and maintenance costs are expected to reach about $100 million per year.
However the mayor says a multimodal system that includes both rail and city buses should keep operation and maintenance cost from escalating.
"A merged bus and rail system, which is going on right now ... should actually bring down the overall costs," said Caldwell.
Meanwhile, the mayor is already talking to state lawmakers about extending a half percent general excise tax surcharge on Oahu that would allow rail to reach Kapolei's city center, as well as the University of Hawaii.
"This is something (that) was talked about and actually has been designed into the system," said Caldwell. "Instead of winding down and stopping, and 10 years later saying, 'Hey let's extend the segment,' I think we should start talking now about continuing the segment up to UH."
Grabauskas said 1,400 people are directly employed as a result of the rail project, but that number is expected to grow to 4,000 in 2015 and 2016 when construction reaches the airport and downtown Honolulu. Wilhelm said Kiewit is employing 400 rail workers and 80 to 85 percent of them are locals.
According to the rail project's April progress report, construction costs could escalate because a change in rail station designs could affect the guideway. The probability of that risk coming to fruition was rated at 90 percent, but HART says it's just a snapshot in time.
"We identify those potential risks ... so we can either eliminate them, mitigate them or we have to deal with them," said Grabauskas.