After listening to more than an hour of testimony, the Honolulu City Council voted Wednesday to approve the issuing of $350 million in general obligation bonds to help pay for building the Honolulu rail project.

Resolution 173 is the next step in the process after the council passed a bill in June authorizing the taxpayer-backed bonds.

The council also voted to pass Resolution 172, which made procedural adjustments to the city’s contract with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. The resolutions were approved simultaneously on a 6-3 vote, with council members Ann Kobayashi, Carol Fukunaga and Ernie Martin opposing them. 

HART representatives at Wednesday’s hearing before the council vote were grilled on the rising cost of rail and a lack of planning.

Testifiers filled Honolulu Hale on Wednesday to argue for and against resolutions allowing the city to issue $350 million in bonds to pay for contracts for rail construction. Natanya Freidheim/Civil Beat

While pressing HART Interim Director and CEO Krishniah Murthy, Kobayashi said the council “can’t get these straight answers” after learning the bonds would help to pay off HART’s debt.

Murthy said no contracts have been issued for work beyond a planned Middle Street station, and the bonds would only go toward contracts that have already been issued.

“Maybe we’ll get to Ala Moana, maybe we won’t,” said Kobayashi, referring to the planned eastern terminus of the project. “It’s really hard for the public and for the developers.”

The $350 million in bonds can be paid off in 10 years through general excise tax revenue, said Nelson Koyanagi, director of the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services.

In late August, the Legislature plans to convene a special session where lawmakers will debate which taxes to raise to fund the remainder of the $10 billion project.

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