State Historic Preservation Division under pressure for rail review
Short-staffing, heavy caseload continue to plague SHPD
It has been one year since the city was forced to halt construction work on the rail project until it completed an archaeological inventory survey of the entire route.
That report is now being reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Division.
But the office has long been plagued by short- staffing and this summer a scathing federal report led to the resignation of its administrator.
When Pua Aiu stepped down as administrator last month, her boss was adamant that the change would not affect the review of rail.
"No, we have people who are dedicated specifically to review rail but so that’s not going to change anything there," said state Land Director William Aila.
But weeks later, Aila turned around and rehired Aiu to oversee the review of the rail project.
The city said the archeological survey of just the urban core route is 10 volumes worth of work.
As of last week, the airport section was not yet complete.
Oahu’s sole archaeologist Susan Levo, is charged with reviewing the project.
But insiders say Levo has had her hands full handling other projects including Kakaako with its many high-rises, as well as overseeing Kauai.
"We will have to reassign the Kauai stuff to someone else maybe the Maui folks. HART is a priority for us right now," said Aila.
With so much on the line, Aila is hard-pressed to keep the rail review on track.
"I have to find a way to get us additional resources to take care of the reviews of rail and Kakakao development and the development across Hawaii as a whole," said Aila.
The city is still expecting a thorough review for the $5.3 billion dollar project which is Hawaii's most expensive public works project to date.
But if the city was worried about any additional delays, HART Director Dan Grabauskas didn’t let on.
"A lot of detailed work, a lot of revisions to make this a good review and we believe we are going to get there in the next few weeks," Grabauskas said.
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