- Associated Press - Thursday, March 18, 2021

HONOLULU (AP) - The interim executive director of Honolulu‘s rail authority has said that the project could experience another delay.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Interim CEO Lori Kahikina said some train wheels do not properly fit track crossings in some sections of the project.

“On the train, when we have to cross rails … it’s called a frog. It’s where the tracks cross,” Kahikina said. “And this crossing, there’s five of them on the west side, the wheels that (are) on the cars, it doesn’t fit correctly during the crossing.”

When officials broke ground on the project in 2011, the rail line was expected to be finished by 2019 at a cost of $5.5 billion. Last year, HART raised the cost estimate to $9.1 billion and the city said the project wouldn’t be completed until 2033. A 2019 report by the state auditor blamed low initial cost estimates, inflation, project delays and unanticipated charges for the ballooning costs. Officials have also blamed construction delays and financing problems.

The HART board expected to be given a new cost estimate of $12.5 billion on Thursday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Kahikina said she believes the organization knew about the train wheel issue late last year, but that she was only made aware of it “a couple of weeks ago.” Kahikina began her role on Jan. 1.

She told council members that she shared the information with Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, Managing Director Mike Formby, the council chair and the vice chair once she found out. She estimated that it could potentially delay the rail project’s interim service for a year, Hawaii Public Radio reported.

“I’m thinking the proper way to address this issue is to change all those frogs,” Kahikina said. “They’re very expensive, and they’re built on the mainland, and they need to be manufactured and shipped here. That could delay one year.”

The rail line is due to run 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Honolulu‘s western suburbs through downtown and to Ala Moana, the location of the city’s biggest shopping center and a bus transit hub that’s next to Waikiki. Supporters hope the train will keep chronically heavy commuter traffic on Honolulu‘s freeways from getting worse.

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