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Facts

Find accurate information, and dispel rumors about the Honolulu Rail Transit Project, by checking the Rail Facts.

Rail Facts

HART is still focused on getting the system built to the Ala Moana Transit Center. Because of the revised estimated cost to complete the system, announced in March 2021, there is a funding shortfall that needs to be addressed. However, the goal is still to get to Ala Moana. HART management is working closely with City Administration, the Council Chair and the Board Chair to develop a path forward.

Ala Moana is important as a destination for the rail system because of the Ala Moana Transit Center, which is the City’s largest bus transit center. Currently, more than 1,500 daily bus trips serve that area, compared to about 800 bus trips at the Middle Street Transit Center. At the Ala Moana Transit Center, riders will be able to easily transfer to frequent bus service and continue their trip to Waikiki, UH or elsewhere. Additionally, Ala Moana is the rail destination approved in the Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration and is the Locally Preferred Alternative as approved by the Honolulu City Council.

The logistics of Middle Street would simply not allow for a useful, functional system if rail stopped at this location. Despite the location of a large bus transfer center, Middle Street would be inefficient as a rail transfer point for reasons such as:

  • Middle Street is not easily accessible to eastbound buses travelling on Kamehameha or Nimitz;
  • If Middle Street is utilized as a rail transfer point, passengers traveling toward Downtown Honolulu would still be subject to the daily heavy traffic congestion on either King Street or Dillingham Boulevard; and,
  • It would take up to10 buses to accommodate the passengers arriving on just one train.
  • In addition, Dillingham Boulevard is the heaviest volume corridor for public transportation on Oahu; therefore, stopping the project at Middle Street would fail to provide this needed transportation option to the many people who live and work along Dillingham.

In March 2021, a revised estimated cost to complete the project to Ala Moana Center was announced that resulted in a funding shortfall.

There are several ways that the shortfall is being addressed:

  • Internal Cost Reductions:
    HART is exploring ways to improve efficiencies of internal processes, eliminate redundancies and better manage costs, among other things. Recent streamlining of the organizational structure is expected to save $150–200 million over the remaining life of the project.
  • Efficient Construction:
    Ways of reducing construction-related costs are also being evaluated. An example is the decision to implement a shift of a section of the guideway route along Dillingham Boulevard from the middle of the street to the mauka side, thereby eliminating the need to relocate certain utilities. This “mauka shift” is expected to save approximately $150 million.
  • Risk Mitigation:
    Risk reduction actions are being implemented, which is expected to reduce future costs of procurement.
  • Monitoring Current Funding Projections:
    As the State’s economy recovers from COVID-19, we expect our funding projections to improve.
  • Evaluating Contingencies:
    Certain areas of the Project’s current cost estimate includes significant contingencies. As our work progresses, we are continually evaluating our contingency levels to identify potential areas for reduction.
  • Seeking New Funding:
    • Received approval of $70 million in federal COVID relief funds in 2021 to partially address lost revenue due to the pandemic.
      • Discussion with City Administration for potential funding opportunities. Also seeking opportunities from State, Federal and other sources.


We believe that we have achieved a meaningful reduction in the funding shortfall, as we continue to search for additional ways to close the gap and move the Project forward.

The Mauka Shift refers to a plan to move a section of the rail guideway from the center of Dillingham Boulevard to the mauka side of the street. This mauka shift saves time and money for the project by eliminating the need to relocate certain utilities.

Currently there is a complex web of electricity, water, sewer and fiber optics lines that run under Dillingham Boulevard. There are also two 138-kilovolt power transmission lines above ground on either side of Dillingham Boulevard. On the makai side there are also 12- and 48-kilovolt power lines. For HART to move all of these power lines underground would be extremely difficult as there is not enough room to provide the clearances needed to service existing utilities. Moving the guideway to the mauka side of the street eliminates the need to bury all of the power lines on the makai side and avoids the need to move other existing underground utilities, thereby improving the project schedule and reducing costs by approximately $150 million.

In early 2021, it was announced that four issues had been identified relating to the wheels and/or the tracks. The four issues were:

  • Incompatibility between the wheels and the “frogs” at the double crossovers, which is where trains can cross from one track to the other. The train wheels are ½” too small, which presents a safety concern when the trains go through the crossovers.
  • Absence of data to justify the speeds at which trains can travel through the frogs in the tangent (straight) direction.
  • Cracks in two frogs.
  • Broken or substandard welds on multiple slide plates.

 

HART and Hitachi worked diligently to find a resolution to the wheel incompatibility issue. A highly respected independent consulting group, Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TCCI), was engaged to evaluate the incompatibility issue and the recommended solution, as well as the speed that can be safely maintained through the frogs in the tangent position (straightaway). A final report from TCCI was received by HART in October 2021 that presented TTCI’s conclusions about these two matters.

Specifically, TTCI concluded that the double-crossovers could be welded in a manner that will provide a safe, temporary solution to the incompatibility issue. The replacement of all train wheels provides a longer-term, permanent solution. The welding is expected to be completed by early 2022, while the wheel replacements will begin as soon as possible, likely summer of 2022. Additionally, TTCI concluded that the trains could travel at speeds of 55 mph through the frogs in the tangent (straight) position.

The anticipated completion of the welding and the confirmation of the speed of the trains through the tangent position of the crossovers will allow the Trial Running test period to begin in early 2022. This testing period will take a minimum of 90 days.

The cracks in the frogs have been reviewed by the rail manufacturer, who has determined that the cracks are superficial and can be repaired with welds.

The broken and substandard welds of the slide plates has been resolved.  Approximately 400 plates were re-welded.

The current schedule reflects a completion date of 2031 for the completion of the entire 20-mile route to Ala Moana Center, barring any other unforeseen situations.

Construction of the first phase of the rail project—from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium—is essentially complete. It is expected that the Trial Running test phase, which will take a minimum of 90 days, can begin in early 2022. Upon the completion of a successful trial running period, the first phase of the rail system, including the Maintenance and Service Facility, can be turned over to the City’s Department of Transportation Services.

While HART is tasked with building the rail, the City’s Department of Transportation Services (DTS) is responsible for operations and maintenance of the rail system, including the determination of the opening of service.

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Project Status

Overall project completion % is based on the full 20 miles and 21 stations scheduled for 2031

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