AP NEWS

Officials: Hawaii rail project opening pushed back 3 months

May 14, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — The first segment of Honolulu’s $9.2 billion rail line will not be operational until next March, three months later than previously forecast, officials said.

Transportation Services Director Wes Frysztacki said the delay means only half of a requested $36 million appropriation for rail operations will be required in the coming year, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

Frysztacki told the City Council Budget Committee Tuesday that the city’s $2.98 billion operating budget submitted by Mayor Kirk Caldwell appropriated about $36 million for six months of rail operations beginning in December.

The $18 million that would have been used for rail operations can instead help offset an expected $130 million shortfall in revenue because of the economic impact of the coronavirus, city Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi said.

The semi-autonomous Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is tasked with building the $9.2 billion rail line running 20 miles (32 kilometers) from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.

The track for the first 10-mile (16-kilometer) segment is complete and nine stations along the section are almost done, authority CEO and Executive Director Andrew Robbins said.

The project is behind schedule because of “normal operational issues” but largely due to the outbreak of COVID-19, he said.

Robbins accepts the plan to trim the authority’s operating budget by about 12.4% but objects to eliminating eight government relations and public-information positions he believes are critical for the project.

Eliminating the positions would net a savings of about $782,000, according to figures provided by Council Budget Chairman Joey Manahan.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.