UPDATED 10/7 3:30 p.m.

A new version of the financial plan for the Honolulu rail project has been produced, and the cost projections are down — again.

Construction of the rail system is now projected to cost $5.174 billion, down $143 million from the $5.317 billion figure found in the April 2011 draft. An earlier financial plan submitted with the Final Environmental Impact Statement in August 2009 had the cost projected at $5.513 billion.

None of those figures include operations and maintenance. It’s expected that it will cost $1.3 billion more to run the system through 2030. That number did not change in the updated plan.

The city is waiting for final approval from the Federal Transit Administration and $1.5 billion in federal grants before starting construction in earnest. Meantime, it’s doing preliminary construction work and this week started archaeological inventory work in the downtown area.

The September 2011 draft financial plan for entry into final design came up during the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation meetings Thursday morning. HART then provided the document to Civil Beat.

The biggest difference between the new financial plan and its immediate predecessor appears to be the projected cost for station construction. That dropped from $615 million in year-of-expenditure dollars in the April model to $511 million in the September version.

UPDATE “The lower cost is the result of some engineering and design refinements,” HART spokeswoman Jeanne Mariani-Belding explained. She reiterated that the new draft is not the final version of the financial plan but just the city’s latest thinking on the project’s cost.

The seven other construction categories — Guideway Construction/Track Work; Yard, Shops and Support Facilities; Sitework and Special Conditions; Systems; Right of Way; Vehicles; and Professional Services — together came in at the exact same dollar amount in the September model as they had collectively in April.

April 2011 Draft Financial Plan

September 2011 Draft Financial Plan

The additional $39 million in savings — which gets us back to the $143 million drop — comes from a decrease in finance charges over the life of the construction, from $334 million to $295 million.

Both the September and April documents explain the changes since the August 2009 version. There’s been considerable progress in the intervening years. In particular, $1.9 billion in construction contracts were awarded in 2010 and 2011 — that represents almost 40 percent of the total for the project. They came in lower than expected.

The contracts included the West Oahu/Farrington Highway guideway design-build contract and the core systems (rail car and rail system) design-build-operate-maintain contract.

But no major contracts were awarded between April and September, so that can’t explain the new savings.

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