Hawaii lawmakers, who are considering the extension of a tax hike to pay for Honolulu’s $6 billion rail project, want more assurances before they sign off.

On Wednesday, the House Transportation Committee passed two resolutions to audit the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which is overseeing construction of the elevated railroad system.

Construction progresses on cantilevered supports going across near the H1/H2 merge looking westbound.  19 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Construction has barely begun on Honolulu’s rail project, yet it’s already in need of more money.

Cory Lum/CIvil Beat

According to KITV, Committee Vice Chair Matt LoPresti said the audit is response to cost overruns and other issues that have left the project with a nearly $1 billion shortfall.

“I think it’s necessary that everybody in the state have faith and confidence in the process, that they know where the money’s going,” said Lopresti. “I think we need to dig in and make sure we understand even where the contractors and subcontractors are spending (money); make sure we’re doing all the cost savings and responsible spending that people expect from us.”

But HART Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas has said the project is already under a lot of oversight, including from the federal government and its own financial auditor, and that additional oversight would be unnecessary.

The Legislature is considering two bills that would extend Oahu’s half-percent general excise tax for rail beyond its 2022 sunset. City and HART officials say that money is needed to complete the project and comply with federal grant guidelines.

For more on the project and the financial challenges it’s facing read Civil Beat’s ongoing series “Off Track,” which looks at how taxpayer dollars are being spent on the largest public works project in the state’s history.

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