The transfer of billions of dollars in assets clears the way for the Department of Transportation Services to open the Honolulu rail system to the public onJune 30.

The Honolulu rail authority will officially transfer the first 10.7 miles of elevated rail line to the city transportation department Friday along with the Waipahu rail yard, train cars and other assets to prepare for the long-awaited interim opening of the rail system later this month.

Lori Kahikina, executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, described the turnover as “bittersweet.”

“It’s like when your child graduates from high school and you’re sending them off to college. It’s exciting, but it’s also a bit sad, too,” she said. “I’ve only been here for 2 1/2 years, but some of my employees have been working on this project for 10 years, so it’s both exciting and scary — like sending your baby off somewhere.”

Then again, Kahikina said it will be a relief to finally put to rest some construction problems that plagued the project in recent years, such as cracking concrete, wheel-and-track interfaces and punch list items that had to be corrected by contractors.

HART rail rolls to the last station in Kapolei.
One of the four-car trains rolls into a rail station near Kapolei last year. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officially transfers the first 10 miles of the system to the city Department of Transportation Services on Friday to prepare for opening the system to the public. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

HART and other city departments have been working for years to prepare for the transfer, and “to get this off our shoulders, it is good,” she said.

HART is tasked with building the rail system, and then turning it over to the city Department of Transportation Services.

DTS plans to finally open the first 10.75-mile segment of the rail line including nine stations to the public on June 30. The entire 19-mile system with 19 stations — which the city has been named “Skyline” — is scheduled for completion by 2030, and is expected to cost $9.933 billion.

The HART board’s Project Oversight Committee was briefed Thursday on the transfer of capital assets to DTS, which began in mid-2022.

HART Project Director Nate Meddings told board members the transfer will include hard assets such as guideway, stations, elevators and other equipment, and “we transferred everything over that is critical for opening.”

The transfer also includes 45 land parcels and a dozen trains that are each made up of four rail cars, which is enough to allow the city to begin operations. HART has contracted for a total of 80 cars.

Contractor Hitachi Rail Honolulu Joint Venture will be responsible for maintaining the track, vehicles and all components of the maintenance and storage facility in Waipahu, while DTS will be responsible for maintaining almost all of the rest of the system, Meddings told the committee.

However, HART will retain claims and liabilities, including “anything that is a result of increased costs due to construction or delays during construction are retained with HART.”

That includes any delay claims, construction defects, and a longstanding disagreement with Hitachi over who is responsible for problems with the wheel-rail interface, Meddings said.

In other business, the Project Oversight Committee was briefed by HART staff on a proposed $21.8 million addition to a contract for utility relocation work along the rail route through downtown and Kakaako.

HART last year awarded a contract for $217.7 million to Frank V. Coluccio Construction Co. to relocate utilities along the rail route through downtown and Kakaako. But that did not include wiring and transformers to connect homes and businesses along the rail line to the new backbone power infrastructure.

The new contract, which was awarded through a sole source procurement, would pay for the additional work required for the hookups.

The committee voted in favor of that contract addition, which now advances to the full board for further consideration.

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