The search for a public-private partnership to help the city build the final leg of the city’s troubled rail project is over.
Andrew Robbins, the embattled executive director chief executive officer of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, informed his board this morning that he is no longer pursuing a P3 contract for the troubled 20-mile, 21-station, East Kapolei-to-Ala Moana Center rail line.
“As we committed, it’s time to move on, to move forward,” said Robbins, whose contract is up at the end of the year and is not expected to be renewed.
Robbins’ decision was prompted by a letter from Acting Budget and Fiscal Services Director Manny Valbuena earlier today, reiterating the Caldwell administration’s concerns that proceeding with a P3 contract would be more expensive.
The P3 process, which began two years ago, calls for a private entity to design and build the final four miles of the project from Middle Street to Ala Moana as well as a parking garage and rail station at Pearl Highlands. The P3 partner would also have been responsible for operations and maintenance of the project for the first 30 years.
“As I committed, once I had that input (from the Caldwell administration), we would take steps on our side to cancel the procurement, so we’ll carry that out now,” Robbins said. “We’re going to be cancelling the P3 procurement and we’re ready to move into a re-procurement very quickly.”
He said the P3 process netted valuable information. “We’ll do everything to get … one or more of the contractors involved to have an interest to come back for the re-procurement,” he said.
Robbins, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and their top lieutenants met this afternoon to discuss the future of the project, including the likelihood that it will be built in segments based on the availability of funds.
Valbuena, in his letter, cited several key reasons for rejecting a P3 including the continuing uncertainty of HART financing, the procedure’s impact on operations and maintenance, and what he perceived as an unlikelihood a viable deal could be reached with a potential partner.
Valbuena said Robbins’ assertion that the P3 process would save the city money in the long run is “highly speculative.”
In a letter to the Federal Transit Administration last week, Caldwell said he and his staff now believe the project will cost $11 billion and take until 2033 to finish completely.
An interim segment, from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, is expected to open to the public late next year.
Caldwell’s seven-page letter, co-signed by HART Chairman Tobias Martyn and City Council Budget Chairman Joey Manahan, asks the FTA to give the city another year to come up with a financing plan before it decides to cut off the city from $250 million in federal grant money that’s set to lapse at the end of this year.