It has been a remarkably busy three months since the beginning of the year. We broke ground on six stations in the East Kapolei to Waipahu corridor and the first four rail cars were delivered on-island. And, we finished the balanced cantilever aka the fly over of the H1 H2 merge – a very cool time lapse video of the construction can be seen here.
Meanwhile, DPP-TOD presented the Ala Moana Neighborhood Final Draft to the public in early March. The notes and presentation from the meeting – this is a must-read for anyone interested in this area and what the plans are moving forward.
A round up of news stories of particular note are below in chronological order.
RAIL TAX EXTENSION
The Honolulu City Council passed a bill extending the 0.5 percent surcharge on Hawaii’s 4 percent general excise tax until 2027 for the city’s rail transit project.
News out just in the past day or two indicates this may not be enough to keep up with rising construction costs. If you follow real estate cycle theory, maybe the best we can hope for is a downturn in construction in Kaka’ako and elsewhere which might help keep drive construction costs down. The operative word is “might”.
GROUNDBREAKING FOR WAIPAHU STATIONS
Honolulu’s rail project reached another milestone. A groundbreaking ceremony was held for rail’s first station, the West Loch Station.
This is really an exciting time for everyone who lives in Waipahu and who travels along Farrington Highway. With the completion of the guideway through the area and the utility relocation work done, traffic will start to move again and the businesses that held on through the construction can get back to a more normal state – until of course new customers who ride the train show up in the next couple of years! Business owners, it’s time to start planning.
ALA MOANA NEIGHBORHOOD DRAFT FINAL TOD PLAN
The plan is the culmination of three public workshops, as well as numerous advisory committee and stakeholder meetings, a resident survey and recommendations from the public to create a community-based vision for the area within walking distance of the Ala Moana Center rail station.
THE GRAY LADY WEIGHS IN
Not so much a news story as a primer on the rail project and a reasonably balanced moment-in-time look from the New York Times.
The article is enhanced by the photographs and what may well be one of my personal favorite quotes about the project from former Governor Ben Cayetano: “It’s gotten to the point where even I don’t recommend walking away from it.” That is practically a kumbaya moment right there.
EMINENT DOMAIN IN KAKAAKO
Using eminent domain, the city can claim property to build the Honolulu rail transit project. The law also allows property owners the right to take legal action if they think they’re not getting a fair deal.
But a Kakaako business owner says by the time he gets his day in court, it could be too late.
This story illustrates one of the challenges of a public works project like this – the delicate balance between public good and protecting private property rights. The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act (Uniform Act) was adopted back in the 1970s to provide protections to people whose real property interests (residential or business) were impacted by public works projects. It isn’t perfect but it lays out a process designed to strike a balance. Still it is hard to hear stories like this and we can expect some more like it as the project moves into town.There have been other happier eminent domain stories associated with project but those didn’t get much notice, if any.
GROUNDBREAKING FOR THE EAST KAPOLEI STATIONS
City and state leaders launched [construction] on the three Western-most rail stations at a groundbreaking ceremony in West Oahu.
I’m calling out D.R. Horton on this one in a good way. Hopefully the very first park and ride will be at the Ho’opili Station long before any homes are constructed and I want to encourage the powers that be to get creative in putting in some pop-up retail and services that rail passengers can enjoy. Cup of coffee anyone?