There is a very large disparity between the costs for construction and equipment for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s rail, and the total costs represented by HART to Hawaii’s Legislature.

Construction costs for the Honolulu rail as reported in the press and on official HART presentations or communications are as follows:

  1. Ten miles of guideway have been finished at a cost of $568 million.
  2. The next 5.2 miles of guideway have been awarded at a cost of $744 million.
  3. Six stations have been awarded at a cost of $196 million.
  4. HART indicated that the rail yard has been completed for $280 million.
  5. About $300 million will buy 30 rail cars from Ansaldo, now Hitachi, for service from East Kapolei to Middle Street.
  6. HART estimates that the remaining seven stations between East Kapolei and Middle Street will cost $383 million.

This brings the cost of rail from Kapolei to Middle Street to just under $2.5 billion for a completed rail system.

Additional costs include preliminary engineering, final design and project management and construction administration.

All these plus insurance, and a few other miscellaneous costs are called soft costs.

HART rail guideway car photo op Farrington Hwy Waipahu Sugar Mill1. 30 may 2017
A rail guideway car on Farrington Highway being tested by HART in May. Is the agency accurate in its cost estimates for the project? Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

Soft costs for built transit guideway projects in the U.S. range from 11 percent to 54 percent. The recommended default for soft costs is 30 percent, but let’s take the maximum of 54 percent for the HART system.

Rail from East Kapolei to Middle Street will cost $3.9 billion for construction and soft costs. Eminent domain costs (this segment involves limited land acquisition at the “Banana Patch” in Waipahu), lawsuit costs and delay losses added another $100 million.

This brings the all-inclusive total cost to complete the rail system from East Kapolei to Middle Street to $4 billion!

‘An Elaborate Forensic Audit’

How did HART costs change from an “affordable” $4 billion system to a $10 billion-and-counting boondoggle?

There are two explanations:

A. The cost for construction, utility relocation and eminent domain from Middle Street to Ala Moana Center is exorbitant. Note that these costs do not account for the cost to the local economy due the severely disrupted traffic flows between Kalihi and Ala Moana.

B. There are copious amounts of waste and fraud in this project. An example of fraud may be in the form of some consultants or contractors getting paid more than once to do the same or overlapping work, billed in different contracts or other categories, or paid large amounts to perform superficial, unnecessary or completed services, some of them disguised as project promotion, community engagement, etc., and a host of other machinations that flow money into tasks and hide duplications.

The answer is both A and B, and it leads straight to the solution:

  1. Absolutely no more taxes for HART.
  2. Limit the project from East Kapolei to Middle Street.
  3. Conduct elaborate, expensive, independent forensic audit, reveal waste and fraud; sum up contributions to politicians since 2004 and reveal pay-to-play and insider arrangements; involve the FBI and prosecute.

Only an elaborate forensic audit can possibly explain how an all-inclusive $4 billion cost for completing 16 miles and 14 stations has ballooned to over $10 billion for 20 miles and 21 stations.

The escalation is clearly out of proportion and well outside acceptable ranges for the construction and oversight of U.S. guideway systems.

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