Hart officials are now saying the rail project may not be completed until April 2024 and will cost just under $8 billion.

The figures are slightly different from estimates released by the Federal Transit Authority last month. But the HART board learned that Honolulu will not lose its federal funding even with the cost overruns and money budgeted to date.

"What they said to us is this: How close can you get to the original commitment with the money you have, and if we can get close enough, then they have indicated to us, not only would they but they will also leave the $1.55 billion commitment on the table," said HART Executive director Dan Grabauskas.

But some board members still have concerns about the changing numbers.

"Every step along the way we have missed the numbers. People ask us all the time, how does that happen? I think the board should hear it before the public does? How is it that we are always chasing numbers?" said City Transportation Director Mike Formby.

Clearly, the public is worried about the runway costs.

"It was sad sitting through a presentation that said let's just keep building until we run out of money. As a taxpayer, that's just disgusting," said rail opponent Eric Ryan.

"Ultimately we need to find a solution that limits how far we kick the can down the road. And explore options to get it finished and get it completed," said Blue Planet Foundation director Shem Lawlor  

HART officials outlined a handful of options to deal with the escalating construction costs. They include building to Middle Street.

From there the city could either continue the elevated guide way to Ala Moana, or building at grade to Ala Moana or rely on the buses from Middle Street. Another option is to build ala carte, which is building as far as funding allows, but it could mean eliminating some rail stations.

One option that's been talked about is to move the route from Dillingham Blvd to Nimitz Highway.

But that could mean a delay of up to ten years because of the need for a new environmental study. There's also the issue of the cleanup costs of spills from underground fuel lines in the area.

"It also introduces unknowns of utilities and Superfund challenges because along Nimitz particularly in the Iwilei area there is known contamination that we would have to deal with," said Deputy Director Brennon Morioka.

Another option is to partner with the public sector to build the 21 rail stations.

All options have a list of pros and cons, which the HART board will have to weigh as it makes its final decision where to go from here.