The major work to build Honolulu’s rail line in and around the airport is now about five months behind schedule, and the issues slowing that progress are now listed as perhaps the biggest risks facing the project.

On Thursday, officials with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation took steps that they hope will eventually trim the delays on the “Airport Guideway and Stations” contract work.

The AGS contract, awarded to the joint venture Shimmick/Traylor/Granite in 2016 for $875 million, already faced unexpected hurdles in 2018 when crews encountered a contaminated water site while drilling column shafts near the airport.

Now, HART reports STG is locked in a dispute with Hitachi Rail, the company building the rail line’s trains and controls, over which party is responsible for a four- to six-month delay completing the four stations along that five-mile stretch of the route.

Enormous gantry cranes are used to build the rail line near the airport. HART officials hope that spending millions of additional dollars to shuffle them around the project can reduce delays on that construction contract. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Hitachi says it faces increased costs because of the delay in gaining access to those stations, according to HART. That’s similar to the delays Hitachi faced during rail construction on Oahu’s west side.

However, STG counters that Hitachi is primarily responsible for the delay because it didn’t provide sufficient designs for where to install its conduits and other equipment, according to the rail agency.

Whoever’s to blame, HART expects a claim for added costs to hit over the dispute — although officials didn’t say how much at Thursday’s meeting of the HART board’s Project Oversight Committee.

Construction there has also faced what could amount to a $40 million delay relocating utility lines along Ualena Street. Glenn Nohara, who chairs the Project Oversight Committee, disclosed that figure during the group’s April meeting.

HART rail guideway near the Daniel K Inouye International Airport with a view of Diamond Head in the background. June 11, 2020
Rail construction is currently progressing across the airport. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

HART has said that the matter involves Hawaiian Electric Co.’s approvals of STG’s plans to do the relocation work. HECO says that the STG designs were sub-par, requiring “corrections and revisions.”

Nohara and the other volunteer board members on the committee Thursday gave initial approval to a change order for up to $4.5 million that aims to speed things up. The entire HART board will need to give final approval at an upcoming meeting.

Those dollars would cover the costs for STG to re-deploy its three massive gantry cranes erecting the rail line’s elevated concrete pathway along Oahu’s south shore.

Crews would move the westernmost crane from the construction area near Pearl Harbor to Ualena Street now that the utility relocation work there is done.

HART hopes to trim the delay by as many as 163 days by reshuffling the gantry canes. STG was initially supposed to finish that work in May 2021 but completion has since been pushed to as late as December 2021, according to the agency’s internal June report.

Now, HART and STG aim to have the work done no later than Oct. 31, 2021, representing the five-month delay.

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