Honolulu rail officials have awarded the contract to build the next 5.2 miles of elevated guideway and four stations around the airport: the joint venture of three construction companies, Shimmick/Traylor/Granite, will build that stretch for $874.8 million.
Shimmick/Taylor/Granite was selected from three joint ventures competing for the latest rail work. The other two joint ventures — Healy/Hawaiian Dredging and NAN-POSEC-HLRT — bid $1 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively.
With today’s announcement, rail leaders have awarded contracts for as much of the 20-mile, 21-station project that its budget analysts say the island can afford to build — at least for now.
Today’s award, barring any official protests or challenges, will lock in construction as far as Middle Street. It leaves the final 4-mile and 8-station stretch up in the air.
City leaders will now have to scramble to find a way to fill the rail project’s latest, massive budget hole — estimated to be at least $1.5 billion — or come up with an alternative plan that significantly reduces the transit project’s size and scope. Rail’s final planned stretch into Honolulu’s crowded urban core, dubbed the “City Center” section, represents the most challenging section to complete, project officials have said.
Meanwhile, the cost to build this latest quarter of rail around the airport is in line with the broader, massive cost increase estimates that have jarred the 20-mile, 21-station project in recent months.
In 2012, when the city inked a funding agreement with federal transit officials, project leaders estimated it would cost $511.8 million to build the “Airport Section” stretch of guideway and its four stations, running from Aloha Stadium to Middle Street.
This past October, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation budget officials revised that cost to $673.4 million.
Then, just five months later, they raised the estimate to $820 million.
Last month, HART Executive Director Dan Grabauskas revealed during one of the rail agency’s board meetings that HART was in a “best-and-final-offer” process with candidates to build the next 5 miles around the airport. It was a key indication that the prices from the firms looking to build came in higher than expected.
Kiewit Infrastructure West, the firm that’s building the first 10 miles of guideway from undeveloped East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, was not one of the three candidates looking to build the next stretch.
Official project cost estimates have increased by about 60 percent since 2012, rising from some $5.26 billion to an estimate of at least $8.3 billion currently. The latest “upper bound,” or highest possible cost projection, is at $10.79 billion, according to the Federal Transit Administration.
Grabauskas previously said he would issue an addendum to the firms looking to build the City Center section, advising them to “stand down” on their work until rail officials have a clearer direction for the project.