Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Wednesday that he will appoint insurance executive Colbert Matsumoto to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Board of Directors to finish out the five-year term of Don Horner, who resigned last week amid growing concern about mismanagement and cost increases with the $6.6 billion rail project.

Matsumoto, who is the executive chairman of Island Insurance, is a well known figure in Hawaii in part because he was the court-appointed master who oversaw the reorganization of the scandal-ridden Bishop Estate, which is now known as Kamehameha Schools.

HART Rail supports along Kamehameha Hwy as Kiewit workers assemble concrete forms for rail guideway supports. 14 april 2016.
The Honolulu rail project takes shape along Kamehameha Highway with workers assembling concrete forms for guideway supports. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He also serves as chairman of the Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees, and was instrumental in helping the Japanese Cultural Center to recover from bankruptcy.

“This is a challenging time for HART but I look forward to working with the other directors to restore public confidence in the project,” Matsumoto said in a written statement from a city press release announcing his appointment. “HART’s role in shaping Honolulu’s future needs to be responsibly undertaken with transparency and accountability by all involved. I hope to contribute to achieving that outcome.”

The city’s elevated commuter rail project will run between East Kapolei and the Ala Moana Center, stopping at 21 stations along the 20-mile route. It was originally estimated to cost $5.3 billion, but has since ballooned to nearly $6.6 billion.

State lawmakers and City Council members needed to approve new taxes to help pay for the increasing costs, which are attributed to construction delays caused by lawsuits, less than expected revenue collections and a booming construction market that has pushed prices higher than anticipated.

Colleen Hanabusa says she wants to rebuild the public's trust in Honolulu's $6.6 billion rail project.
Colleen Hanabusa says she wants to rebuild the public’s trust in Honolulu’s $6.6 billion rail project. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Rail officials have said they hope the five-year extension of the 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge for rail will be enough to cope with the higher price tag, but some are now wondering if the extra funds will be sufficient.

Caldwell also announced Wednesday that he will appoint former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa to another five-year term on the HART board. Hanabusa was initially appointed to the board to cover the remainder of Carrie Okinaga’s term, which expires June 30.

Hanabusa’s new term will end June 30, 2021. Matsumoto’s term will end June 30, 2020.

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