HONOLULU (AP) - Honolulu's planned rail line and new high-rise condos will help boost Hawaii's construction industry, according to a report released Friday by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.
"Single-family home construction languishes, but new high-rise condos, retail and resort-related development will boost non-residential building," the report summarized, while noting that the construction industry made almost no progress toward recovery last year. And, legal challenges aside, "rail construction is poised to begin in earnest as this year progresses," the report said.
It forecast that construction jobs, which averaged 28,500 last year, will rise to about 29,000 this year and to nearly 36,000 by 2015, thanks to rail and a the next housing upswing.
It will take a while before building conditions improve outside Oahu.
"As we noted last year, this looks to be a construction expansion that, for now, will mostly be limited to Oahu," the report said. "The Neighbor Island economies, which saw a home building bubble in the 2000s, face an excess inventory of homes and more severe foreclosure problems that will retard a quick recovery or residential construction."
The UHERO report comes as the Associated General Contractors of America released an analysis Thursday that shows 600 construction jobs were lost in Honolulu between January 2011 and January 2012 - a 3 percent decline.
The group, which is holding its annual convention in Honolulu, blames the decline on Congress being late in passing infrastructure investment bills, making it difficult to plan for and fund transportation projects.
"What makes these job losses even more frustrating is the fact that many of them could have been avoided," said John Romanowski, state chapter president. "Thousands more construction workers would be employed today if Congress wasn't years late in passing the highway and transit bill."
Meanwhile, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation's interim director says it would be cheaper to start construction now on support columns for the city's planned rail line - even if it means having to tear them down later.
Toru Hamayasu says each month of construction delays adds $10 million.
Members of the City Council on Thursday suggested delaying construction on the $5.27 billion project until the federal government provides its share of funding.
Hamayasu says having contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. build the guideway columns now will cost less. The city signed a contract with Kiewit in 2009 to build the first segment of elevated rail guideway, and heavy construction is scheduled to begin this month. The city will pay a $15 million change order because of delays.