Audit the Hawaii Light Rail | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Audit the Hawaii Light Rail

Back then, in February 2015, the estimated cost for the Honolulu rail was $6 billion, and Atkinson said that was much too low. Atkinson also said she would be surprised if the rail were finished “in under 30 years for under $20 billion.”

Initially, I thought she was exaggerating. But now when I look at the largely ineffective battle by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) to control its costs, it occurs to me that she might have been right. A recent analysis by the Federal Transit Administration found that the project is costing more than HART anticipated. This, of course, is no surprise: In 2012 the city’s funding agreement with the FTA put the cost at $5.26 billion and completion by 2020, while the latest estimate is $9 billion and completion by 2025.

At their most recent meeting, HART board members openly struggled with the fact that the FTA is requiring them to update their budget to reflect an additional $134 million in costs. Already, the FTA has signaled its lack of faith in the project by withholding federal funds absent a recovery plan and setting a Nov. 20 deadline for the city to come up with $44 million — the initial payment on a $214 million obligation to HART.

In short, it is a mess.