Repaving the Oahu Community Correctional Center’s parking lot, widening nearby Kamehameha Highway and other related work will cost about $650,000.
But what’s unusual is that the state Department of Public Safety isn’t footing the bill. The rail authority is.
"It's clearly unnecessary in two ways. Why are we doing this in 2017? There is no rail project anywhere near that site,” said rail critic and University of Hawaii Civil Engineering Prof. Panos Prevedouros.
“Second, what has HART to do with OCCC?”
Prison officials and a spokesman with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation said that the paving work is necessary because the rail authority is widening Kamehameha Highway. That requires them to move OCCC’s fences and reconfigure and resurface the prison's parking lot.
But facing a shortfall of about $2 billion, HART only has enough money to build to Middle Street. Prevedouros noted that OCCC is several hundred yards beyond Middle Street.
"If they had done construction and put some pilings into OCCC obviously they would have to do some finishing work around it. But right now there is nothing happening anywhere near there,” he said.
He said the paving work makes even less sense because the prison will eventually be knocked down and relocated.
But other says it will be years before OCCC is moved and that the parking lot needs to be resurfaced in the meantime.
"We absolutely have seen no plans by the state of moving OCCC in the near future, within the next one or two years,” said City Councilmember Trevor Ozawa.
Ozawa , a rail skeptic, was the swing vote when the City Council voted to approve $350 million bonds for the rail project. He voted for the plan only after HART and city officials assured him that none of the bond money would be spent on heavy construction beyond Middle Street.
Ozawa said he's okay with the OCCC expenditures because it doesn't involved heavy construction, such as the elevated guideways.
Meanwhile, Prevedouros said the repaving project underscores a need for a forensic audit of HART's construction work.
But HART’s board voted against conducting a $250,000 audit more than a month ago, with board member Ember Shinn arguing that the money would be better spent elsewhere.
"It's not my intent to muck around in the past and try to figure out what we did wrong in the past,” Shinn said during the June 22 HART board meeting.
“It’s more trying to get forward … as opposed to saying we made a screwy, stupid decision back then.”