Construction on the 20-mile rail line will start in Kapolei, and one day that’s where some commuters might start their trip downtown.

So when the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation made Kapolei Hale the site of the first of five rail “town hall” meetings this week and next, the basic question from a decidedly pro-rail crowd was: How soon can you get started?

The 90-minute meeting was attended by about 100 citizens. Roughly a dozen asked questions after a powerpoint/video presentation from Interim HART Executive Director Toru Hamayasu.

Almost all comments were positive, and some questions were pretty technical. What’s the status of the core systems contract award? (We’re still waiting for paperwork from Ansaldo, Hamayasu said.) When will we start putting columns in the ground? (We’re waiting for federal review.) How much is the lawsuit over the environmental review costing the city, and will it cause delays? (About $300,000 in legal fees, but no delays yet.)

Even Leeward Oahu Honolulu City Council member Tom Berg — an avowed critic of rail — focused on specifics.

He asked about what type of tax would be necessary to extend the line to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Waikiki and further into Kapolei. The answer: perhaps another 15 years of the 0.5 percent General Excise Tax surcharge.

“As a technician, I would say let’s finish this segment first, and I think the people are going to see it and like it, and I’m hoping people will say let’s extend this further so we have more coverage,” Hamayasu told him.

Berg also asked if Mag-Lev technology might be cheaper and better than steel wheel on steel rail.

“I don’t think that there is sufficient reason to revisit the technology selection,” Hamayasu said. Many of his lines drew applause from the crowd.

Before the questions began, the city’s presentation provided an update on project progress, including the city center archaeological inventory survey soon to begin. It looked at the big picture but also talked about the specific construction challenges of noise, dust and traffic.

A similar meeting will take place Wednesday night in East Honolulu, and future stops include Central Oahu, Windward side and Downtown.

View a flyer for details.

About the Author