by Andrew Walden
The ‘interim opening’ of Rail service between East Kapolei and the soon-to-be-demolished Aloha Stadium has been delayed multiple times from an original 2012 opening to the currently projected “first quarter of 2023.”
HART excuses are nearly Biblical: Plague, Frogs, Fires, and Cracks -- but the real reason slipped out as COVID shut down Hawaii's tourism industry, “After Wasting Billions to Build Rail, is it worth $160 million a year to operate?”
Here is an eleven year timeline focusing on the slippage of HART's interim service start date:
2012: New Rail Financial Plan Boosts Operating Cost to $6 Billion, Delays Opening -- “The application for federal funding submitted Thursday shows the city has again delayed the opening date for the first stretch of the new rail line, with the initial segment from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium now expected to open in mid-2016. Last year, the city predicted that first segment would open in late 2015. “At one time, the city planned to open the first portion of the elevated train system as early as 2012, but that was put off because of delays in completing the environmental impact statement for rail and other issues that arose.”
2013: Back on track? HI public works project to restart after year-long delay -- HART still must clear at least one more major legal hurdle if it wants to open the first 10 miles of the rail system — between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium — by 2017 and the entire 20-mile route by 2019.
2014: Rail Opening Delayed One Year as Budget Busting Bids Tossed Out -- “The delay caused by the rebidding of the contracts could push back the 2017 opening of the first 10 miles of the Honolulu rail system by one year, to 2018, but officials are still projecting the system will be fully operational by 2019.”
2015: HART Letter to Caldwell -- “We have also tasked HART staff, within the refresh analysis, to re-examine the cost-benefit and logic of having an interim opening date, which calls for the first phase terminating at the Aloha Stadium station and operating for 12 months with very limited ridership.” (This shows HART considering the cost of running an ‘interim’ service. When COVID hits, these costs openly become HART’s rationale for delaying interim service.)
2017: HART Recovery Plan “HART intends to be ready to operate and maintain a system from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium at the end of 2020.”
2018: HART RFP “Interim Opening of the West Side Guideway and Stations Segment, is currently scheduled to occur in 2020.”
May, 2019: Untested ‘Fireproofing’ Plan to retrofit Honolulu rail cars -- Caldwell -- “That could cause delay. It could impact the interim opening they're aiming for."
June, 2019: Honolulu rail authority must replace 15 cracked canopy arms -- “problems with the canopy arms might delay that interim opening”
April, 2020 Star Adv: The opening date for Honolulu’s rail line from Kapolei to Ala Moana that is planned for December 2025 might now be delayed in a new bit of fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. (NOTE: This refers to a full line opening to Ala Moana Mall.)
June, 2020: Caldwell Signs Budget: Rail Faces ‘Hard Decisions’ due to Collapse of Economy “…largely as a result of the pandemic’s impact on the rail project’s construction deadline, budget officials are now projecting they will be able to spend about $18 million less in rail operations costs in the coming fiscal 2021 budget year that starts July 1” (Translation: Rail is opening later so the budget allocates less money to operate.)
Nov 25, 2020: Rail’s Interim Service Could Be Pushed Back A Year Amid COVID, Testing Woes -- Officials had hoped to deliver rail’s first 10 miles for service this fall. Now they don’t expect that to happen until late 2021…Postponing rail’s interim opening could help “save a bunch of money” and preserve existing service on TheBus and Handi-Van.
Nov 29, 2020: After Wasting Billions to Build Rail, is it worth $160 million a year to operate? “These complications may indeed push the “soft-opening” date to July 2021”
Dec, 2020: HART Pours Final Segment of Middle Street Section -- “HART is on track for safety certification of the Airport Segment of the project in 2023, which will allow for expansion of passenger service between Kapolei and Middle Street” (NOTE: ‘Airport Segment’ is ‘Second Segment’)
Feb 2021: Blangiardi news release “the first segment … is projected to open in the second half of 2021.”
June, 2021: No Rail Service Until 2023? HART Wheel Size Problem Could Keep Rail from Opening
Oct, 2021: HART Developing Excuses to Keep Rail Closed for Two More Years -- “If TTCI ultimately determines that the frogs need to be replaced, that could delay an interim opening by another year or two, Kahikina has said”
July 13, 2022: Rail Warning: Bus Ridership Off 41% from Pre-COVID Days (CLUE: This is the future of Rail ridership.)
July 16, 2022: Seven Rail Stations Closed After Discovery of Cracks in Concrete Columns -- Earlier this summer, the HART director said at a press conference that her agency was aiming to start the rail system’s required 90-day trial running sometime this month. That needs to happen successfully before passenger service can start. The trial running was later to pushed to Aug. 1, said Jade Butay, who sits on the HART board as the state transportation director. Now, that August start date looks “way too aggressive,” Butay said Thursday…..
Aug 4, 2022: Blangiardi: Concrete Cracking Could Push Honolulu Rail’s Opening To Next Year -- “the opening would occur no later than the first quarter of 2023”