Honolulu rail agency expects to finish archaeological digs ahead of schedule

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officials said Thursday they have 100 trenches left to dig for the archaeological surveys of the proposed rail transit route.

HART officials also said they expect the work — which was accelerated after a Hawaii Supreme Court decision halted construction nearly two months ago — to be completed ahead of schedule.

HART Executive Director and CEO Daniel Grabauskas told the agency’s board of directors during their regular meeting Thursday that the delays associated with the ruling are costing the project an additional $7.1 million a month.

Grabauskas told the board that by their next meeting he would know when the survey work would be completed, but said it will be ahead of the February 2013 date because crews have been added and some of them are working around the clock since the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling on Aug. 24. Royal Contracting Co. is digging the trenches and Cultural Surveys Hawaii Inc. is advising HART about cultural and archaeological matters when burials and bone fragments are found.

“We are making excellent progress,” Grabauskas said. “We have come a long way in the weeks since the Supreme Court ruling.”

According to HART, more trenches may need to be dug if the State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources requires it, but that will depend on how many more Native Hawaiian burials are found.

Of the 100 trenches HART expects to dig to complete the survey, 95 are in the city center, which includes downtown and Kakaako. HART is required to do 232 trenches in the city center. The other five trenches that need to be dug are near Honolulu International Airport.

“We suspect that we will find more,” Grabauskas said about remains, or iwi, in the city center area.

HART board member Don Horner, retired president and CEO of First Hawaiian Bank, pointed out that after doing almost 300 digs for the survey, only three instances of iwi, or bone fragments of any kind, have been found.

Pacific Business News by Mark Abramson, Reporter

Date: Thursday, October 18, 2012, 11:44am HST

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