HART eyes possible routes for rail expansion to UH Manoa
One of two high-rises in the works along Kapiolani Blvd. blocks the preferred rail route to any future expansion to the University of Hawaii.
HONOLULU - A high rise on Kapiolani Blvd is one of two in the works along the street that effectively blocks the preferred route for any future rail expansion to the University of Manoa.
Sam Koo Pacific is developing the 45-story Kapiolani Residence.
Construction is in full swing. The project ts a mix of market and affordable units slated to open by the end of next year.
Just across from the Hawaii Convention Center, at the corner of Kapiolani and Atkinson is where the Mandarin Oriental hotel and the Manaolana tower is expected to rise.
The 36-story mixed use project is supposed to get underway in the middle of next year.
Construction on the rail route to Ala Moana isn't expected to be complete until 2025 but preserving the corridor to UH is still important.
"We know we are blocked right now on Kona street so all we are looking to do is find path onto Kapiolani," Andrew Robbins, HART CEO said.
HART did flag its concerns about the high rise developments to the Honolulu City Council when the two projects were going through the approval process.
Robbins feels it would be shortsighted not protect our options now .
"There's a lot of community interest to go to Waikiki. Some want to go to Waikiki, but that's very controversial, but for us to work on this line construct this line and put it operation, and to preclude ever extending it beyond Ala Moana would not be prudent," Robbins said.
Robbins and his staff asked the board to give the nod to do just that.
"We are looking at three or four rail options on how we could come of the rail route and find a path to Kapiolani, one would be beyond the Ala Moana station, how could we continue the route and then turn onto Kapiolani and then the other options would involve a branch line before the train would arrive at Ala Moana station," Robbins said.
Robbins wouldn't say what properties it might be eying to condemn to make one of those four options work.
The study would focus on a half mile area from Kamakee to Young street.
HART staff just wants to study the alternatives so if the city decides it wants to expand, it has options for a good plan B.
Councilman Trevor Ozawa said in a statement,
"Since the beginning of 2015, Council member Kobayashi and I have been asking questions about the Ala Moana transit station, the rail alignment and the expansion to University of Hawaii. To date, we have not received an answer on how the rail system will get to the University of Hawaii without the need for significant changes. In the past, HART has told us the system would have to go down Kapiolani Blvd. And we raised concerns about how the alignment would affect the trees and new development proposed along this corridor. I am glad that HART is finally taking a hard look at the project and its impacts to the surrounding community. I believe the decision on the rail alignment in this area will be the most important decision of the entire project and will need to be completely vetted by all stakeholders.”