LOS ANGELES — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants his office to regain control of a $6.9 billion elevated rail project that has experienced a series of cost overruns.
The rail project is now managed by the semiautonomous Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.
Caldwell in his State of the City speech Monday night proposed a charter amendment that would merge rail, bus and paratransit operations under one agency managed by the mayor's office.
The amendment would place HART under city and county control once the rail line becomes operational.
Caldwell, who ran as a supporter of the rail project, said his reputation is on the line.
"I want more aggressive oversight and greater transparency from HART," said Caldwell, who is up for reelection in November.
Project costs have soared to close to $2 billion more than original estimates on the project slated for completion in 2019.
The cost of the project has risen from an anticipated $5.2 billion to $6.9 billion since 2010.
The City and County of Honolulu voted in February to extend the 0.5% general excise tax extension for the elevated rail project to help cover cost overruns associated with construction of the 20-mile rail line across Oahu.
Both Hawaii Gov. David Ige and Caldwell made quarterly reports from HART a condition of supporting extension of the GET, which had to be approved on the state and local level.
The surcharge extension is expected to provide from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion in additional revenue for the project.
The move freed up $250 million in federal money for the project. The Federal Transit Administration had held up its most recent $250 million allocation for the project, because cost overruns raised questions with the federal agency as to whether the city would be able to complete the project.
FTA has already given the city $800 million of the $1.55 billion in agreed upon matching federal funds.