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Rail work kicks off in Waipahu

By Gene Park

LAST UPDATED: 1:36 a.m. HST, Apr 25, 2011

Relocation of utility lines is expected to begin today as the city moves forward with work on its $5.3 billion rail transit system.


>> September: Federal Transit Administration approves final design and limited construction.
>> February 2012: City requests federal funding.
>> October 2012: City and FTA execute full-funding grant agreement.
>> December 2015: Open East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium.
>> October 2017: Route completed through Middle Street
>> March 2019: Project completion
Source: City and County of Honolulu

To date, it would be the most construction done on the proj­ect. Preparation for moving utilities has been under way in recent weeks, and city Rapid Transit Division spokes­man Scott Ishi­kawa said this will be the first time lane closures will be required.

"The first thing we're going to be doing is moving the gas line by Wai­pahu High School," Ishi­kawa said.

One lane along Farrington Highway in both directions from Wai­pahu Depot Road to the Kame­ha­meha Highway Interchange will be closed Mondays through Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the next seven weeks.

This work — the first on several areas along the initial 6.5-mile section of the 20-mile route — will also include relocation of trees, storm drains and water, gas, sewer and phone lines.

Ishikawa said the Wai­pahu area is first, but officials are working on getting work permits for other areas, including at the beginning of the route in East Kapolei.

The work is expected to pose a traffic nuisance for the coming weeks, but at least one eatery in the area is looking forward to the construction.

Poke Stop on Farrington Highway is expecting some increased business due to the construction crews that will work in the area.

"Now that we have a liquor license at Poke Stop in Wai­pahu — it's pau hana time over there for the construction guys," Poke Stop owner Elmer Guzman said from his Mililani location.

Anticipating that construction would occur nearby, Guzman acquired the Wai­pahu location less than two years ago. It's done steady business so far, so any new customers can only help.

Crews have been prepping equipment nearby and have already started to stop in to grab a bite, Guzman said.

"Talking to the construction guys coming in, they say they'll come back for more," Guzman said. "We're running perfect daily sales. Whatever adds to it, bonus."

Ishikawa said he's met with nearby businesses, asking them to be creative in attracting customers as construction gets under way.

The utility lines must be moved because utility crews must be able to access lines for repairs or replacement once the guideway is constructed.

City contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. also collected dozens of soil samples since last May and shaft tests since September along the route from East Kapolei through Wai­pahu in the past year.

Kiewit has won the two contracts — about $855 million total — to construct the first two phases of the route.

Shaft tests entail drilling holes up to 100 feet into the ground and pouring concrete to create test columns, Ishi­kawa said. The contractor then applies pressure to the column via machinery to see whether it can bear the weight of the guideway.

"A lot of factors are going to be involved in building the actual column, like soil conditions, how deep the column will have to go and the strength of the concrete," Ishi­kawa said. "This will help them with the design."

The city has also begun right-of-way acquisition talks with property owners. So far, a property in Iwilei was sold to the city for about $2.5 million because the owner was under hardship, said city Rapid Transit Division spokes­woman Jeanne Mari­ani-Bel­ding.

"It's still very early in the proc­ess," she said.

Through 2019 the city plans to spend about $248 million for right-of-way acquisitions, according to the proj­ect's updated financial plan, released Wednesday.

In 2011 dollars the entire proj­ect is expected to cost about $4.3 billion, without finance charges. In year-of-expenditure dollars with finance charges, the proj­ect is expected to cost $5.3 billion, according to the financial plan.

The city has awarded 39 percent of the capital expenditure work so far, including a protested winning contract from Ansaldo Hono­lulu, an Italian-based company tapped to design, build and operate the rail cars.

The city has submitted its updated financial plan to the Federal Transit Administration, which will be key in arranging federal funding of about $1.55 billion for the proj­ect.

Full construction can't begin without FTA approval. That approval is expected sometime in the fall.

Ishikawa said utility relocation is expected to continue along the entire route through summer 2012, but if the FTA approves heavier construction, the city might proceed with that work as well.

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