Change Orders Likely Coming on First Winning Honolulu Rail Bid

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BY HONOLULUTRAFFIC.COM When the Honolulu city administration headed by Kirk Caldwell/Mufi Hannemann announced a year ago that Kiewit Pacific had been awarded the design-build rail transit contract for the 6.5-mile phase covering Kapolei to Pearl Highlands, they said the bid was $90 million less than estimated.

However, we have just received from a highly reliable source a description of Kiewit’s soil testing, which apparently reveals how Kiewit was able to offer the lowest bid on the project and why the cost may be increasing,


“Based upon the preliminary geotech all indications were that the shortest drilled caisson shafts were 60 to 70 feet deep, and in the Waipahu area there were some that were upwards if 175 to 200 feet, most of which were more in friction than in end point loads. The way Kiewit reduced this amount was by saying that they were going to end-tip grout the caissons, which essentially means that they were going to try to create a bubble at the end of their caissons to try to get more of an end tip bearing and try to catch the shallower boulder layer rather than just friction. This allowed them in theory to reduce the pile lengths by about 25 to 35%, I say in theory as it appears that they are currently working on a large change in conditions change order. I also understand that the test caissons are being installed in within the next few weeks, so the results will end up being very critical to the claim for a change in conditions.”

Excellent op/ed in Hawaii Reporter:
Beverly Keever, professor emerita at University of Hawaii, has written a excellent op/ed for Hawaii Reporter, titled “Hannemann’s Landslide Loss Calls For Re-evaluation of Honolulu’s $5.5 Billion Fixed-Rail Project and Openness.”
What was especially interesting was her quotes from Professor Karl Kim, long a proponent of Honolulu’s rail transit proposals. Following is an unabridged excerpt from the op/ed:

“Transportation projects in Hawaii have been all about jobs and the connections between money, land, and power,” writes Karl Kim, an M.I.T.-educated professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “There hasn’t been sufficient scrutiny over who would be employed by these expensive capital projects and the extent to which mainland firms and outside labor will be imported to complete them. It’s been about winning or losing battles, rather than designing and building effective solutions for meeting the real transportation needs of communities.”

The guarantee of local jobs was further clouded just a week after the election by the announcement made on Sept. 24 that U.S. regulations governing some construction projects involving federal funds would override state requirements that Hawaii residents to be hired.

“How is it,” Kim goes on to ask “that we can be furloughing teachers, cutting welfare benefits, and downsizing vital community programs while still spending billions on fixed rail transit, financed largely by a regressive excise tax?”

Kim maintains that official “reviews of major transportation projects have displayed insufficient systems thinking and an alarming disregard for the public.” He says that officials have insufficiently considered mixed modes of travel, “in which walking, biking or driving and travel by bus and rail are part of an overall system of ground transportation. We need to examine public and private options, including taxi and shuttle services.”

“Rail transit, unfortunately, is headed down the same track as H-3 and the Superferry,” Kim explains. “We can expect lawsuits, challenges, delays, and wasted time and energy because not enough attention was paid to the assessment and disclosure of significant impacts.”

If rail proponents have lost Karl Kim, they are in trouble.

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