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Rail Changes Keep Popping Up

There’s an old saying: “A thing not looked for is seldom found.”

I’ve been trying to figure out if the little changes to the details of our rail system will ever stop surfacing.

It seems like another change, usually an expensive one, appears every month. They are all very creative changes, too – nothing you would expect to pop up after so much planning over so many years by so many smart professionals.

The last change that got my attention was an adjustment to the number of the seats in each rail car. The plan was to increase the seating capacity by 25 percent for each two-car train on the system. The company responsible for making the change is Ansaldo Honolulu JV, core systems contractor for the rail project. The change would add 800 passenger seats to its rail-car fleet.

Cost: $0, because of a saving somewhere else in the budget.

It all seemed to make sense, because more seats mean more ridership, so that’s good.

Just when things started to settle down, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) announced last week it planned to move a total of 234 trees for the West Oahu Farrington Highway phase of the rail project. That then changed abruptly to 366 trees that will be cut down or transplanted.

Cost: $900,000!

HART says the rail’s envi ronmental impact statement focuses on trees along streets and highways. These extra trees are on the roadways near the proposed park-and-ride station by the “Banana Patch.” They also are next to Waipahu High School and Leeward Community College.

HART will meet with college leaders to figure out where to transplant the trees. It’s not yet known whether the transplanting will violate the recent Supreme Court decision to stop construction of the system until the proper completion of the environmental assessment concerning the iwi issue.

At this rate, CEO Daniel Grabauskas should consider a statewide contest on the ever-changing drama of the HART system. Anyone who could guess the actual completion date, including naming of the system, would win a trip to somewhere interesting – by rail.