The recent purchase of Italian train car-maker Ansaldo by Hitachi Group has Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Chairman Don Horner excited about the future of the city’s $6.6 billion rail project.

On Thursday, Horner and other members of the HART board of directors discussed the acquisition of AnsaldoBreda and Ansaldo STS by the Japanese company with Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas.

HART rapid transit train on display at Kapolei Hale. 20 may 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hitachi Group, which recently acquired Ansaldo, will take over the contract to build and operate Honolulu’s rail cars.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Horner said he hopes that the new ownership will mean better energy efficiencies that can then be applied to Honolulu’s rail system, which will be powered some of the most expensive electricity in the U.S.

“I’m encouraged by Hitachi because of the mitigation of energy costs,” Horner said, describing the company as a global leader in energy efficiency.

Hitachi acquired AnsaldoBreda and a 40 percent stake of Ansaldo STS from Finmeccanica on Nov. 3. Together the two companies make up the joint venture Ansaldo Honolulu JV, which has a $1.4 billion contract to build the city’s rail cars and operate the system.

Grabauskas also announced Thursday that Jesse Souki has been hired as the new director of planning and right of way. Souki is the former head of the State Office of Planning and deputy director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

He now works at the law firm, Imanaka Asato, as part of its transit-oriented development division. Souki was also the chairman of the Honolulu Charter Commission, which is currently considering several proposals to amend the city’s constitution.

UPDATE

Souki said he resigned from the Charter Commission after taking the job at HART. The commission is considering several proposals related to the rail agency.

Souki will be replacing Elizabeth Scanlon, who was hired to a position at Caltrain in California. Scanlon had been named to Mass Transit magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40” while working at HART.

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