The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation finally lifted the veil this week on hundreds of millions of dollars of rail-related payments that have gone to subcontractors over the past fiscal year, and that have long been kept secret from the public.

According to documents submitted to the Honolulu City Council, from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016  HART received more than $432 million in invoices from contractors working on the city’s $8.3 billion commuter rail line that will run from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.

Of the $432 million, at least $235 million in invoices were submitted by subcontractors who were hired by the prime contractors, such as AECOM and Parsons Brinckerhoff, to perform work on the project or provide materials.

HART Rail supports along Kamehameha Hwy as Kiewit workers assemble concrete forms for rail guideway supports. 14 april 2016.
Honolulu doesn’t have enough money to build rail beyond Middle Street, which is about four miles short of its expected terminus. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

HART officials had long refused to release subcontractor payment information to the public, saying that they didn’t have the legal authority to access the records and that any disclosure would be done on a voluntary basis by the contractors who hired the subcontractors.

But a 2015 Civil Beat investigation into HART’s contracting practices found otherwise. In fact, numerous contract documents related to the project indicated HART had access to the subcontractor data and could release it if it chose to do so.

Honolulu City Auditor Edwin Young came to similar conclusions in his official examinations of the agency and how it tracks spending. As Young told Civil Beat last year, “Our argument is that the (subcontractor) information is in the contractor’s database, all you have to do is ask for it.”

The City Council forced HART to make public the subcontractor invoice data after passing a five-year extension of a 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge. That surcharge extension was supposed to cover a nearly $1 billion shortfall.

The money, however, won’t be enough to complete the project. Costs have continued to rise, and another $1.5 billion shortfall is projected.

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