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$21M budgeted for rail authority

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The yet-to-be-established Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will cost about $21 million to operate next year, according to the city’s proposed budget.

Although the budget item is 131.7 percent larger than the current Rapid Transit Division’s fiscal 2011 budget of about $9 million, the rail agency is expected to increase in staff and scope of work as it prepares for construction of the $5.5 billion project.

The Rapid Transit Division operates under the city Department of Transportation Services. By July 1, the division would operate under the rail authority and an executive director. The authority was created by a City Charter amendment approved by voters last year.

The first act of the authority’s 10-member board would be to work on the budget. The City Council will not oversee the agency’s budget.

"In fiscal year 2012, the budget will not be part of the regular city budget," said city Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka. "They’re going to be autonomous by that point, just like the Board of Water Supply is not part of the city budget."


Here are some figures from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s fiscal 2012 budget as proposed by the city.

» $9.5 million: regular pay
» $4 million: fringe benefits
» $3.3 million: other professional services
» $1.7 million: rent
» $1.5 million: other fixed charges
» $48,000: nonholiday overtime, night shift and temporary assignment pay
» $137,000: computer equipment
» $82,475: out-of-state travel expenses
» $69,000: office supplies

The rail authority’s board will be made up of three members appointed by the mayor and three appointed by the City Council. The state and city transportation directors will be voting members. Those eight would vote for a ninth member, and the city permitting and planning director would be the 10th member.

The authority would be funded with federal money and through a special transit fund established to receive the 0.5 percent surcharge to the general excise tax.u

Currently, the Rapid Transit uDivision is authorized to hire 110 workers, but Yoshioka said only 66 of those jobs have been filled.

"The reason we don’t have all 110 positions filled is that, as we move along in the project, we would have different areas we would staff up," Yoshioka said.

He could not specify how much larger the staff would become under the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, but said it would be larger than 110. In fiscal 2011, $5.5 million was appropriated for 110 positions.

The authority’s powers would include:

» Executing contracts and labor agreements.
» Acquiring all real property necessary.
» Directing the planning, design and construction.
» Establishing all fares, fees and charges for the system.
» Preparing annual operating and capital budgets.

The board would still answer to the City Council during the budgeting process for approving bond sales and land acquisition through condemnation.

The board was created to create some space between the project and the political process. Some local rail transit critics said a board would be necessary only if the system were to run through several political jurisdictions, not through a single county as the 20-mile route would.


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