State Legislature Special Session

The upcoming legislative special session scheduled to begin on August 28, 2017, marks a critical milestone for Honolulu’s rail transit system. During the regular legislative session, which ended in May 2017, the state House and Senate could not agree on a funding mechanism for the rail project. The City requested the Legislature extend the half-percent General Excise Tax (GET) surcharge for an additional ten years beyond its December 31, 2027 sunset date to cover the increased construction and financing costs for the project.

The state Senate approved legislation to extend the GET. The State House, however, did not, offering instead a mix of funding sources, including a short extension of the GET surcharge and raising the Transient Accommodation Tax (also known as the TAT and sometimes referred to as the “hotel room tax”), as well as pushing more of the cost back to City, which would force the City to drastically services, including public safety, raise real property taxes on homeowners and businesses, or take on a tremendous amount of debt through bond sales.

The impasse must be resolved. The Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) has notified HART that if funding is not secured, it will find the City in default of its agreement and will withdraw its $1.55 billion in funding for rail transit (approximately $750 million already provided would have to be returned to the federal government). A September 15th deadline to establish an has been set by the FTA

If the state Legislature fails to act, and the FTA finds the project in default, HART would have to halt construction, driving the price for the project even higher and costing local taxpayers significantly more to restart work to complete the project.

Construction Update

The first half of the guideway, from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, has been completed. The rail operations center, located on a 43-acre site in Waipahu, has also been finished and includes four major structures: the operations and servicing building, the maintenance building, the train washing facility, and the wheel maintenance building. The nine stations along the 10-mile alignment are all under construction and will be completed during 2018 and 2019.

The second four-car train has been delivered and more are being built in Pittsburg, California. In May, a rolling test of the first train was successfully conducted along a 2.1 mile stretch of the elevated guideway, and powered tests are planned for later this year.

Work started in January 2017 on the Airport Guideway and Stations (AGS) segment, which begins at Aloha Stadium; moves next to the Pearl Harbor Station, serving Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam; continues through the Honolulu International Airport; on to the Lagoon Drive Station; and into Kalihi where the Middle Street Station is located, next to the Kalihi Transit Center.

Currently, pre-construction and design work on the AGS segment is wrapping up, which includes three test shafts to ensure the stability of the piers along the route. This fall, STG JV, the contractor will begin heavy construction work, pouring the foundations, installing the piers and guideway before beginning station construction. Work is on schedule and completion of the AGS segment is anticipated in 2020.