HART CEO Grabauskas makes a stop at Pearl City community meeting

Aug 1, 2012 | PC Community


Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) Executive Director & CEO Daniel Grabauskas addressed a small group of Pearl City residents Tuesday night during a community rail transit meeting held at the Waiau District Park Community Center.

The rail meeting was hosted by Honolulu City Councilmember Breene Harimoto and his staff. Harvey Berliner, Chief Facilities Engineer, Honolulu Rail Transit Project presented an update on the first phase of rail construction.

District 34 State House (Pearl City) candidates, Eloise Tungpalan and Gregg Takayama were also in attendance on Tuesday.

                                                       Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

HART Executive Director & CEO Daniel Grabauskas spoke at a small gathering of Pearl City residents at the Waiau District Park Community Center on Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

Questions and concerns from attendees with regards to the rail project that ranged from the early stages of construction, rail route, ridership fares & capacity, safety & security, jobs (% of local hires), and rail funding from the Federal Government and 1/2 % GET collections were addressed by Grabauskas, Berliner, and Harimoto.

Berliner reported during the meeting that a contract was awarded on Tuesday for the last rail guideway section. That brought up concerns from attendees on progress of the rail financing as the construction of rail line forms and columns makes its presence and progress in Leeward Oahu.

Grabauskas, who recently returned from meetings with officials in Washington, D.C., reported that the rail funding talks at the Federal level went well.

Even with the proper funding secured for the rail project construction, the issue of overrun costs made its way to the floor for discussion. The 20 mile rail project is scheduled for completion in 2019.

"We've got our project budget, and over and above that, we have over six-hundred fifty million dollars sitting in a contingency fund that we haven't even touched," said Grabauskas. "We put it there because we expect that there are possible overruns or additional costs that are going to come up. It just always happens. So we anticipate that and its 15% of our total project costs that's put aside just for that."

"If we should have overruns, and as in the example that someone asked, if we ate through all the money that we have budgeted for the project, plus all of our contingency, and we still had say, a three-hundred million dollar cost overrun, first of all, you're going to know that because we're going to see it over the next seven years," Grabauskas said. "People are going to track and monitor exactly what we do, but if you did have that, the GET in 2022 is going to be worth over three-hundred forty thousand dollars per year. Worst case scenario? You extend the 1/2 % for another ten months and it’s paid for."

I'm not sure that the extension of the 1/2% GET would go over to well with taxpayers, especially for those who are not in the areas on Oahu where the rail line will serve.

Grabauskas has received a lot of positive feedback from rail supporters as well as concerns from those opposed to the rail project during recent community rail meetings.

"Where I go, I hear very positive things," Grabauskas said. "I also hear a lot of concerns from people who will support the idea of rail and who are opposed. They worry about costs, but I think we've addressed that costs shouldn't be an issue and we can work together on it. There's a lot of unknown and uncertainty and people are afraid of change. You see that in any big public works project of any kind. You know, I wasn't here for the debate around H-3, but everyone said to me that the H-3 was going to be terrible, we don't want it, and it was fought for years,  and when it was finally was done, everybody loves the H-3. I'm almost tempted to name the train and call it H-4. You know why I'm going to call it that, because everyone is afraid of it, and I think it’s going to be successful. Maybe we just need to remind people that you were afraid of change then, but you loved what the result was.  I think it's going to be the same for the train."

Grabauskas brings a wealth of experience to the table. Councilmember Harimoto is impressed by his willingness to get out into the community to update and educate the public on the benefits of having a first class rail system.

"This is great, it's always a pleasure to get Dan Grabauskas out to have direct engagement with the community," said Councilmember Harimoto. "He's got the knowledge and the experience and he can relate to people. What he says makes a lot of sense and I think we can all see why we got an expert from the mainland that has this transit experience. In the few months that he's been here he's done a great job of improving the plans. I'm happy that we started out the meeting with a small group so we can have this good interaction and engagement. The people who were here got their questions answered and got a good feel on why we're doing this and where we're going."

Engaging in the community and its people is a top priority for Grabauskas and his HART administration. Creating jobs for local residents is paramount to the overall success of implementing and maintaining a rail system that truly serves the population. HART recently held a job fair in Waianae on the Leeward Coast to help prepare residents who may be interested in being employed by the rail transit system. HART partnered with Leeward Community College for the job fair. Local hires currently make up 50-60% of the rail transit workforce.

One of the last questions asked Tuesday night was the possibility of the rail transit project construction being halted due to the possible leadership change at city hall in the upcoming Mayoral race?

Counclimember Harimoto kept a positive outlook saying that we need to keep moving forward to continue to make progress in the project.

To learn more about HART and the rail transit project log onto: www.honolulu transit.org.

MyPearlCity.com wants to hear from you. Your thoughts on the rail transit project and where you think it's headed? Please post your comments at the bottom of article.

                                                       Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

(From left to right) Harvey Berliner, Chief Facilities Engineer, Honolulu Rail Transit Project, HART Executive Director & CEO Daniel Grabauskas, and Honolulu City Councilmember Breene Harimoto.

                                                       Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

District 34 State House candidate Eloise Tungpalan.

                                                       Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

District 34 State House candidate Gregg Takayama.

                                                       Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Attendees had a great time meeting and speaking with HART Executive Director & CEO Daniel Grabauskas during Tuesday night's community rail transit meeting held at the Waiau District Park Community Center.

                                                       Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Q&A session during Tuesday night's community rail transit meeting.