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Sunday, January 15, 2017
Architects: Put Rail on the Ground—Save $4.2B
By News Release @ 5:17 PM :: 2715 Views :: Rail

Honolulu Transit Task Force Report:

SALVAGING THE RAIL: MODIFYING HONOULU AREA RAPID TRANSIT (HART) FOR STREET LEVEL OPERATION IN DOWNTOWN HONOLULU

From Salvage Rail, January 2017  LINK: VIDEOS

UPDATE: HART Response

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

It is anticipated that the HART elevated rail project will use up its existing funding (local and federal, totaling $6.57B) shortly after construction to Middle Street. The current estimate for completing construction through the Middle Street station is $6.22B, leaving only $350M in available funds for the final five miles of the project to Ala Moana. Ever-escalating construction costs have caused political leaders and HART officials to consider stopping construction after Middle Street while exploring additional funding methods and design alternatives for the final five miles of the route.

With HART officials now anticipating $3B in additional construction costs for completion to Ala Moana (projected total cost $9.5B), and with the most challenging construction conditions (and associated cost overruns) still ahead, it makes sense for political leaders and HART officials to pause and reassess the project. According to independent transit experts, the rail equipment and station design currently under contract to HART can be modified to allow street level operation in central Honolulu. This would not only save billions of dollars in construction costs but would also allow future extensions to Waikiki and UH Manoa at a fraction of the cost of elevated rail.  This would allow HART to satisfy stipulations for the federal funding as well as commuter preferences for a “one-seat ride” to Downtown. Modified for street level operation in central Honolulu, HART would become a mass transit system that better meets the mobility needs of all Oahu residents yet is more affordable and more easily extended. HART could be not only a commuter rail system for those in Leeward Oahu but also an urban rail system used by all to get around central and leeward Honolulu.

The Recovery Plan recently transmitted to HART officials by the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) in June 2016 lists six options for completion in order to receive $1.55B in federal funding. The FTA does not dictate what rail technology is used so long as the end point is Ala Moana. Option 2A in the Recovery Plan reads, “Build to Middle Street as planned and continue with at grade rail system”. This Option becomes particularly attractive if HART trains can be modified to operate at street level rather than creating a separate system that riders must transfer to. The most glaring weakness of HART in its current form is that it does not include the major commuter destinations of Waikiki and UH Manoa. Given the long-stated opposition to elevated rail in Waikiki and the exorbitant cost of extending HART to UH Manoa (discussed in detail below), it is clear that an all-elevated HART will never reach those two destinations. In contrast, a HART system modified for street level operation can be completed four year earlier, will cost $2 - 5B less than an elevated project, and can be extended easily at reasonable cost.

….

SUMMARY

Modifying the HART project to allow street level operation for the final five miles will save money ($2.9 - $4.2B), will save time (completed in 2020 vs. 2025) and will provide a much more environmentally acceptable system Downtown that can be easily extended to Waikiki and UH Manoa.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS  

This report was written by a group of Hawaii-based architects and planners, with the assistance of chief technical advisor Douglas Tilden.  

Douglas A. Tilden AIA AIA Project Manager and Senior Architect; URS, New York City   

One of the Honolulu rail project's first architects, Douglas Tilden quit after just a year on the job after his criticisms and recommendations were ignored. Douglas Tilden was chief architect for InfraConsult, the projects main consultant, in 2007.  

Formerly Vice President of Harry Weese & Associates, Chicago University of Cincinnati, B.S. in Architecture 1968. Since 2008, Mr. Tilden has served as the Program Manager and Chief Architect for the East Side Access Project's underground expansion of Grand Central Terminal in New York City. This assignment culminates a 45-year career in the design of rail transit facilities throughout the U.S. and three foreign countries. Notable assignments include: Architect - Washington METRO, Washington, DC, 1970 - 73 Corporate Vice President and Architect - Miami METRORAIL, Miami, Florida, 1976 - 82 Joint Development Director - Taipei METRO, Taipei, Taiwan, 1989 - 92 Chief Architect - Athens, METRO, Athens, Greece, 1993 - 97 Chief Architect - Korean High Speed Rail System, South Korea, 1997 – 99.  

Scott R. Wilson AIA Contributing author Scott R. Wilson is a Honolulu architect. Scott has been part of the AIA Honolulu efforts to research rail transit since 2009. He was Chair of the AIA Transit Task Force from 2009 - 2012 and Chair of the AIA Regional & Urban Design Committee from 2011 - 2016.  Owner and Sole Proprietor of Scott R. Wilson AIA since 1993, specializing in residential and small commercial projects, licensed in Hawaii, California and Maine.  Professional degrees in Architecture (B. Arch, University of Hawaii at Manoaa, 1984) and Regional & Urban Planning (Professional Certificate, DURP, University of Hawaii Manoa, 1999). Former Project Architect at TRB Hawaii, Long & Associates Inc., and Onuma Design Office (Yokohama, Japan).  President-elect and President of Honolulu Chapter, American Institute of Architects, 2014-2015.

PDF: ENTIRE REPORT 

KITV: Website showing street-level rail in Honolulu launches

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