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Honolulu rail project may finally see trains this year (corrected)

By | January 20, 2023

First portion of long-delayed system likely to open in May or June

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Aerial view of light rail train
Aerial view of light rail train
The first trainset for the Honolulu light rail system was delivered in 2016. The system should begin operation this year. Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation

HONOLULU — Honolulu’s long-delayed, multi-billion dollar rail rapid transit project is expected to see its first riders this spring. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will hand over a 10.8-mile route from East Kapolei station to the Halawa/Aloha Stadium station to the City and County of Honolulu Department of Transportation Services in March or April, HART says.

HART is responsible for construction of the system while the Department of Transportation Services will be responsible for operation and maintenance. Opening is likely to come in May or June.

Originally a 20-mile system with 21 stations and 20 four-car trains traveling from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, the line has since been shortened to 18.75 miles with the final stop to be the Civic Center station at the intersection of Halekauwila and South streets in Kakaʻako.

Trains will travel a top speed of 55 mph, with an average speed of 30 mph. HART’s original plan, with a route to Ala Moana, estimated 119,600 boardings daily and about 55% of passengers walking or biking to a station. The rapid transit line is being constructed almost entirely on an elevated guideway above street level.

Cost overruns have plagued the project, which — by shortening the route — is now expected to cost about $9.9 billion. Prior estimates for the full route had varied, but reached as high as $12 billion. If the line is finished in 2031 as planned, it will be eleven years late; original estimates had the line finished in 2020.

The remainder of the system is projected to open in two additional segments, a 5.2-mile section to Middle Street in early 2025 and a 4-mile portion to Kakaako in March 2031.

— Updated with several corrections or clarifications on Jan. 24 at 9 a.m. CST; additional details on cost clarified at 5:15 p.m.

9 thoughts on “Honolulu rail project may finally see trains this year (corrected)

  1. What I find amusing is the fact that mush of this high-tech line essentially parallels the original Oahu Railway for much of its route. And while Aloha stadium looks to be a fine temporary terminus, the East Kapolei station is literally in MFN (Middle of Freakin’ Nowhere). Seriously, check out the site on Google maps and it sits in the middle of a former cane field in Southwest Oahu.
    On the positive side, its 1.9 miles north of the Hawaiian Railway Society yard in Ewa Mill Town, so maybe you could catch an Uber on weekends to their Hawaiian Railway operation and make it to the west (leeward) side of the island.

  2. We’ve heard similar comments in the past. I don’t believe this prediction any more than past predictions.

    “Honolulu rail transit line scheduled to begin operations as soon as December” Hawaii Public Radio 3/3/20

    “The first segment of the city’s over budget and long-delayed rail line will begin carrying passengers between East Kapolei and Aloha Stadium sometime in the second half of 2021” Star Advertiser 12/24/20

    “Honolulu’s rail project could be up and running this year, but there’s still a possibility it could face another significant delay.” hawaiinewsnow 6/14/21

    “Summer 2022 is the earliest the rail could begin partial operations, HART CEO says” Hawaii Public Radio 12/10/21

    “The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation says it’s hopeful residents will be using trains by the end of the year” hawaiinewsnow 6/9/22

  3. Has anyone ever asked how much it cost to build the New York City subway system and how long it took.

    The IND came later. BMT and IRT systems – which must add up to I don’t know, maybe two hundred miles and at maybe two hundred stations, were probably built in about a thirty year period. Not light rail but fully grade separated at every station. Several tunnels under the East River (a/k/a South River) with the technology and the machinery then available. Mile after mile of viaducts, the miles-long causeway over Jamaica Bay, a practically endless list of engineering achievement. All this coterminous with the construction of Penn Station and the PRR/ LIRR tunnels from Queens to Manhattan and Manhattan to New Jersy.

  4. Honolulu must of picked the same contractor, that is trying to build a High Speed Train route in California. The results are about the same.

    1. That’s a little over $121,000, PER FOOT! I’m all for light rail but this is beyond crazy.

  5. Eleven years late….that’s the rule rather than the exception living the islands!
    Given Honolulu’s uptick in violent crime in recent years, wonder how safe it’ll be to ride HART…..

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