Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that 25 percent of the archaeological survey work has been completed on the final two phases of the rail project. This work has been completed on the first two phases.

If Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officials know how much a six-month delay in construction on the $5.26 billion rail project costs they’re not saying.

On Thursday, the HART Board of Directors reaffirmed Executive Director Dan Grabauskas’ decision to halt construction work on the project in light of a recent ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Grabauskas initially called for a work stoppage after the high court’s decision with the caveat that the HART board could overturn him. Of course, such a decision would have likely resulted in additional court fees since the plaintiff in the case vowed to seek an injunction to stop construction.

HART Chair Carrie Okinaga said the board will “fully comply” with the Supreme Court ruling, which means archaeological inventory surveys will have to be completed along the entire 20-mile-long railway line before construction resumes.

UPDATED 9/7/12 11:30 a.m.: The city has completed the archaeological survey work on the first two phases of the project from Kapolei to the airport. It is currently surveying the last two sections of the project, and has completed about 25 percent of this work.

It has a contract for nearly $1 million to do archaeological survey work, which includes digging trenches to search for Native Hawaiian burial sites as well as other culturally sensitive items.

This work is currently scheduled to wrap up by March, although officials are seeking options to speed up the timeline.

“We, the HART board, remain fully committed to moving the project forward as well as being in full compliance with all laws,” Okinaga said after a two hour closed door meeting to discuss the ruling. “The delay in construction will add costs. However, we do have contingency funds expressly for this purpose.”

The city has more than $800 million set aside in contingency funds for the rail project. About $15 million has been spent on construction delays, and on Thursday the HART board approved adding another $7.2 million to this total.

That money is going to Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. for delays that impacted design on the project prior to the Supreme Court ruling. Kiewit also received the other $15 million construction delay payment.

Grabauskas said that while most construction will stop — there’s an agreed upon exception with the plaintiff for things such as erosion control and public safety — the design and engineering work on the project will continue.

HART has entered into more than $75 million worth of architectural and engineering contracts since June.

“The bottom line is as a result of the ruling there will be delays, (and) those delays will cost more money,” Grabauskas said. “One of the things we’re trying to do to mitigate that is to potentially add additional crews to the archaeological inventory surveys and do that in a responsible fashion to comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

HART will now have to enter into negotiations with Kiewit over claims the company might make due to the delays. Kiewit and affiliated companies have nearly $570 million worth of construction contracts with the city.

Lance Wilhelm is Kiewit Building Group’s senior vice president. He was at Thursday’s meeting and said it’s too soon to know how much his company will seek to make up for the delays. He said it’s “very difficult to estimate” those figures before meeting with HART.

“It’s a function of how much work is delayed, what kind of work and for how long,” Wilhelm said. “And all of these things we don’t know at this point.”

In January, HART officials estimated that delays in construction would cost $9 million a month. This estimate came at a time when the city was pushing the Federal Transit Administration to let it proceed with construction.

The HART board also seemed to blame the beleaguered State Historic Preservation Division for the Supreme Court ruling.

SHPD is the agency that told the city it could do the archaeological work in phases as it moved ahead with construction. The justices disagreed.

At least one HART board member, Don Horner, pointed the finger at SHPD during the meeting. He also asked whether the state agency could simply change the rules to allow for the archaeological work to be done in segments rather than as a whole before construction starts.

And when the board came back from its executive session to announce its decision, some of the first words out of Okinaga’s mouth were that the city simply followed SHPD’s “long-standing interpretation of its rules.”

“The Supreme Court disagreed with this interpretation and past practice,” she said.

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