There was a sense of frustration among members of the City Council's Budget Committee on Wednesday after a hearing featuring the transit authority's Chief Financial Officer Diane Arakaki.
Committee members had two main questions for Arakaki, who was hired in June according to her Linkedin profile: How much contingency funding does the $5.3 billion project actually have left? And, how much are construction delays costing taxpayers after a unanimous decision last month by the Hawaii Supreme Court put a stop to construction?
To both questions, Arakaki said she would have to get back to council members, or, she was not in a position to say.
“She tried, and she is the CFO, so I thought there would be more information. Especially, when you're coming to the hearing, at least the information should be there,” Ann Kobayashi, Budget Committee chair, told KITV4.
Arakaki was able to highlight several points about the rail project’s contingency funding that was part of the project’s July monthly progress report.
According to the document, contingency funding for the rail project stands at $643.6 million, of which $541.7 million is allocated, and $101.9 million is unallocated.
Arakaki explained allocated contingency dollars simply means funds have been dedicated to rail contracts that have already been signed, as well as unforeseen events that could impact the project’s total cost. To date, the city has signed 24 contracts totaling $3.13 billion.
“We have allocated contingency that is part of various major phases of the project,” Arakaki testified.
Councilman Ikaika Anderson was troubled he and his colleagues could not provide constituents more concrete answers about construction delays or contingency funding. Still, he’s willing to give the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation more time to research the answers.
“What worries me is when we have taxpayers calling our offices wondering what's going on (and) we don't have answers that make us sound intelligent,” said Anderson. “With all due respect to HART though, Executive Director Dan Grabauskas is traveling to Washington D.C., to meet with Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. Those folks who can answer these questions aren't here in Honolulu.”