Rail construction starts ahead of full funding grant agreement

By Andrew Pereira
Published On: Apr 23 2012 06:44:17 PM HST
Updated On: Apr 24 2012 09:51:50 AM HST

Construction starts in Kapolei on Oahu's rail project.

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -

Major construction of the city’s $5.3 billion rail project began Monday with supporters pledging that it cannot be stopped.

A drilling apparatus was set up just off of North-South Road despite not yet securing $1.55 billion in federal funds and a lawsuit that hopes to stop the project.

The giant drill burrows the first of many holes to support the columns that will hold up the 20-mile-long elevated train.

Although no transit-oriented development contracts have been signed, the mayor is confident the rail system will transform this farming area into a bustling community.

"This is going to give us an opportunity to review and make more vital this particular area of land and keep people employed," said Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle.

Rail construction is moving forward even though the Honolulu Authority For Rapid Transit has yet to secure a full funding grant agreement from the federal government expected to be worth $1.55 billion.

The mayor repeated a line by Sen. Daniel Inouye when asked about federal dollars.

"It will take World War III to keep us from getting $1.55 billion from the federal government," said Carlisle.  "If there's anybody who I would trust telling me that is Dan Inouye and the rest of our congressional delegation."

"The optimism that I've heard from those folks that we're going to see the funds lets me believe that the column that you see beginning construction today is going to be there 100 years from now," said Daniel Grabauskas, HART's executive director and CEO.

Under the limited approval that HART received from the Federal Transit Administration, another 49 columns can be built.

HART is seeking further approval to continue building even more.

Major construction began Monday with a federal lawsuit that hopes to stop the project still undecided.  Rail supporters are confident they will prevail in court.

"People can jump and scream and swear they're going to stop it, but they're going to have a real hard time doing it," said Carlisle.

On Monday, HART issued a letter to members of the Honolulu City Council with estimates on how much it would cost to delay the project, versus starting construction now.

The analysis shows it would cost $119 million if the federal lawsuit is successful and HART is forced to demolish what has already been built, as long as the decision is made no later than January 31, 2013. 

In contrast, if construction is delayed until January 31, 2013, it would cost $313 million due to the escalating cost of raw materials and change orders due to construction delays.  

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