The public got its first glimpse of a train car moving along Oahu’s partly built elevated guideway Tuesday, as testing began on the vehicle in Leeward Oahu.
The car was towed 2.1 miles from the rail operations center (between Leeward Community College and Waipahu High School) to the West Loch Station. The goal was to make sure there’s enough clearance along the rail line for the train and there are no obstacles in its path.
“For engineers this is a great day,” said Krishniah Murthy, interim executive director and CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. “This is like a child’s toys at Christmastime.”
It was the latest event showing the progress of the project, even as a budget shortfall leaves its future uncertain. Testing will continue along the same 2-mile route for the next six months, Ansaldo Honolulu JV Managing Director Enrico Fontana said.
The firm, which handles the system’s operations, expects to have the line’s third rail electrified later this summer so the train no longer has to be towed. At that point engineers will test the vehicle’s acceleration, braking and software, Fontana said.
As the train inched slowly toward the station Tuesday, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell stood on the elevated guideway to watch along with rail officials and other politicians.
“We’re standing in what is the future of this island,” Caldwell said, touting the easy commute when the rail line is completed.
“Life is going to be very different in very positive ways,” Caldwell said. “We just need to get through the conflict and the problems that we have today.”
About half of the railway, or 10 miles, has been built so far. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit project has spent about $2.6 billion total, including more than $700 million in federal dollars. But the rail project faces a funding shortfall estimated at $1.5 billion to $3 billion.
Caldwell had asked state lawmakers to allow the city of Honolulu to extend the general excise tax surcharge to help pay for the rail project, but the Legislature adjourned without reaching agreement on a funding solution. Lawmakers could call a special session to decide a funding plan, but Caldwell said that at this point there’s no indication lawmakers have gotten closer to an agreement.
He said he remained hopeful that a funding solution would be found.
“The train is on the track, and it’s moving,” Caldwell said. “And this project is moving forward.”