Project Announcement: Honolulu Rail May Be Coming To A Neighborhood Near You
by Robert Thomas, InverseCondemnation, November 21, 2017
The work on what turned out to be the first phase on Honolulu's billions-of-dollars rail project from Kapolei to the Ala Moana Shopping Center isn't even close to being done yet, but the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation looks like it is thinking ahead to Phase 2, and extending the line from the shopping center to the University of Hawaii in Manoa (where the commuting students are), or maybe Waikiki (where the tourists are).
We say "what turned out to be the first phase," because you will recall that as originally conceived the rail would run from Kapolei to the UH, but was then scaled back when that plan was too expensive, too ambitious. Now that the election is behind us, and the money sort of is flowing again, maybe not.
Problem is, there's a lot of residential and commercial development between the shopping center and the UH and Waikiki, so acquisition of the right of way is going to get harder, more expensive, and messier than it has been so far for phase 1 (although the reason for the massive cost escalation in the project thus far has not been land acquisition, which in proportion to other costs is a relatively minor part of the overall bill). Plus, according to the reports cited below, there is even stuff that is being built right now that would be in phase 2's path, and would need to be acquired.
The long and the short of is that project announcement is the effective taking date triggering property owners' right to compensation and damages (a date the city would likely want to put off as long as possible), but before announcement of the project route, the city can't use its regulatory power to curtail development in the potential path of the rail, or to try and hold down the cost of (eventual) acquisition. That would be illegal or also a taking. So keep looking for these "hints" from HART about where they are thinking of putting the rail lines, but nothing really concrete that anyone could point to as the actual "project announcement."
More on the latest happenings from Honolulu Civil Beat ("Rail Board OKs Preliminary Step To Push Route Past Ala Moana") and in these two video reports from KITV/Civil Beat:
Go here for rail and eminent domain FAQ's.