Uncertainty surrounds $8B Honolulu rail project
by Panos Prevedouros, FixOahu, April 19, 2018
National professional news outlet Construction Dive looked into HART in the article Uncertainty surrounds $8B Honolulu rail project after reviewing the Honolulu Civil Beat article What Honolulu Rail Officials Know They Don’t Know.
- The total cost of the project is in question. Panos Prevedouros, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, estimates that it will cost at least $13* billion. The price tag for the mostly elevated rail line could rise as crews move into the city and navigate unmapped utilities, encounter various types of subsoil, come across potential native burial sites, and possibly damage existing structures as they excavate nearby. In order to provide the public with a rapid rail option and stay within the budget, officials could opt to shorten the system
- Polls suggest a majority of the public wants to finish rail and stay within the existing budget. Both can be achieved only by finishing rail at the Middle Street Transit Center, where riders can transfer to coordinated options such as pooled ride-hailing and high-tech versions of Honolulu’s award-winning bus service.
- Prevedouros believes such a plan would give taxpayers substantial value for their money already spent on rail, by getting people beyond both the H-1 and H-2 and the Middle Street merges while avoiding untold billions in construction costs and freeing up any saved construction financing to pay for operations and maintenance.
- Most rail commuters will need to transfer at least once in any event. Consider this example: If rail were built to Ala Moana Center, it would take 12 minutes to get there from Middle Street by rail, and then another 16 minutes by bus to University of Hawaii Manoa — a total of 28 minutes. But if rail terminates at Middle Street, a UH student can get to Manoa by express bus in about 20 minutes.
(*) Back in 2009, FTA's consultant Jacobs of Dallas, TX conducted a risk analysis on HART's budget (actually Honolulu rail became the HART project after 2010) and showed a 10% chance of the project costing $10.5 billion. During the Legislative session of spring 2017, Mayor Caldwell mentioned that for all practical purposes the cost of the project is $10 billion. See "Mayor Kirk Caldwell and City Council Chairman Ron Menor think Oahu taxpayers are so rich we can pay not only for a $10 billion rail system that’s $5 billion over budget and climbing, but also for road projects on the neighbor islands."
As of 2018, the project is at least 6 years late (and likely to have further schedule slippages).
- Taking the Jacobs $10.5 B projection and compounding it by 4% over 6 years gives a year of expenditure (YoE) cost of $13.29 Billion.
- Taking the Mayor's $10.0 B projection and compounding it by 5% over 6 years gives a YoE cost of $13.40 Billion.
- If you dislike compounding inflation and prefer the simple inflation of costs, then the corresponding numbers are $13.02 B and $13.00 B.