- The Hawaii State legislature passed a measure that will provide $3.4 billion for the state’s capital improvement projects.
- The bill covers fiscal years 2019, 2020 and 2021 and would provide, according to Big Island Now, almost $275 million for University of Hawaii system construction, maintenance and modernization projects; $617 million for airport and airfield improvements, including $170 million for a new concourse at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport; $384 million for harbor projects; more than $458 million for bridge replacement, repair and maintenance; almost $65 million for repair, maintenance and renovations to buildings under the Hawaii Health System Corp.; almost $1.3 billion for public school construction and maintenance; and almost $36 million for maintenance, repairs and improvements to state buildings.
- Once signed by the governor, the General Improvements Act of 2019 will go into effect July 1, 2019.
A big Hawaii construction project is not in line for state funding through this latest measure but is still drawing major attention — the $9.2 billion, 20-mile Honolulu commuter rail line. Earlier this year, the Hawaii state auditor’s office issued the first of four reports on how the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) has handled the project, and the overriding message was that competent oversight has been sorely lacking.
The project’s budget has increased by more than $5 billion since 2012 and is six years behind schedule. State auditor Leslie Kondo pointed to several missteps made by HART, including issuing construction contracts too soon. Kondo said the authority had issued a premature $483 million contract to Kiewit Pacific Co. in order to avoid rising costs and let out another $2 billion of work before reaching the appropriate construction milestones.
In the latest blow to the project, the Federal Transit Administration has informed rail officials that it is delaying funding to the project pending receipt of a fully fleshed out recovery plan, according to Hawaii News Now. However, HART representatives said they’re encouraged that the federal government is still committed to financing the project once the bid processes for a guideway and parking garage are complete. Contractor selection for those two elements is not expected to be complete until early next year.
Also up for grabs is the contract for the $1.4 billion last portion of the rail project. In September of last year, HART approved a plan to let a public-private partnership deliver that piece, which includes four miles of the line and a transit center, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Even with all of the project's troubles, 20 companies have submitted proposals for that final portion of the project, according to the Star-Advertiser.