date June 16, 2010.

The federal funding has a long way to go before approval:

The nearly Final EIS has the following statement on pages 6-4 to 6-5:

    “The City is seeking capital funds from FTA’s New Starts program, which provides funding for fixed guideway transit projects and extensions. Under current authorizing legislation, an annual appropriation is available nationwide on a discretionary basis for projects that have completed the program’s procedural requirements and that meet certain criteria specified in law and regulation. The program is highly competitive. At this point, the City is in the process of addressing FTA requirements, and indications are that the Project will meet FTA criteria. However, FTA cannot make a final commitment to fund the Project until a Full Funding Grant Agreement has been approved after NEPA requirements have been met, the Project is approved for Final Design, and the New Starts Program is reauthorized by Congress as part of the Federal Surface Transportation Funding Program. Current authorizing legislation expired but has been extended in anticipation of a new authorization in 2010, following which there could be changes in statute, regulations, policy, and funding availability.”

Nearly Final EIS now on line here:

The FTA has now issued what we can only call a nearly Final EIS. We say nearly Final because the Programmatic Agreement which is Appendix H of the EIS has yet to be signed and the Governor has not approved the nearly Final EIS yet. Until those occur the document is not a Final EIS.

date June 14, 2010.

Traffic lights greatly need improvement:

Click here  for a demonstration of the adverse effects that traffic lights can have on the movement of traffic.

Former Congressmember Neil Abercrombie testifies before Congress:

We have pointed out before that among the factors that make the rail project financially shaky are the potential effects of passage of the Akaka Bill on General Excise Tax and property tax collections. We are grateful to a native Hawaiian separatist group, the Koani Foundation, for providing this short video clip of former Representative Neil Abercrombie testifying before Congress. Without intending to, Abercrombie makes the case for the seriousness of the situation better than anyone.

The rail transit financial plan cannot possibly work:

The present financial plan is insufficiently robust, according the Federal Transit Administration, and we believe that the City cannot remedy its present shortcomings. The FTA gave its permission for the City project to enter Preliminary Engineering but wrote,

    “Further, the City should be aware that FTA’s standards for the financial rating are higher for entry into final design than for entry into [Preliminary Engineering (PE)]. The higher standard for final design includes an assessment of the robustness of the financial plan against increases in costs, shortfalls in revenue streams, and competing demands on funding sources. Some elements of the current financial plan may not fare well in the stress tests that FTA will apply to evaluate robustness. These elements include the projected revenue stream from the General Excise Tax, the diversion of FTA Section 5307 funds from ongoing capital needs of the bus system, and the increasing share of the City’s annual budget that is required to fund the transit system. Were this plan submitted today in support of a request to advance the project into final design, its weaknesses would likely cause FTA to deny the request. Therefore, continued development and strengthening of the financial plan will be a crucial part of the PE effort.”

However, the City Council Ordinance governing the financing says that rail,

    “… may be constructed within financial constraints (capital cost and any interest to finance that capital cost shall be paid entirely from general excise and use tax surcharge revenues, interest earned on the revenues, and any federal, state, or private revenues) …”

Note that the FTA, in typical bureaucratic understatement, casts doubt on the City’s projected GE Tax revenue forecast and is unhappy with the diversion of federal bus funds to be used for rail construction. Given these weaknesses together with the City having no other funding sources, one has to ask, how can the City possibly devise a plan that will be robust enough to justify federal funding?

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