Is the City Allowed to Start Construction on Honolulu Rail?

Artist depiction

Artist depiction

BY JOHN BRIZDLE – What are the next Steps for rail after the FTA signs off on the Record of Decision for Honolulu? Can the City & County of Honolulu start construction?

Now that the FTA has issued the Record of Decision for the Honolulu Rail project, the city has come out and said they are ready to break ground.

However, if you look into the FTA New Starts process, the FTA is very specific about what kinds of construction Honolulu can commence at this time.  The FTA is also very specific that Honolulu cannot commence full construction at this time.

The terminology used by the FTA to outline these two levels of construction authority is Pre-Award Authority and Letter of No Prejudice.

Here are documents that explain these two levels of construction authority from

Basically, the FTA is saying Honolulu is now moving through the different levels of Pre-Award Authority.  Currently Honolulu can relocate utilities, procure vehicles and acquire real estate.

When Honolulu applies for and receives permission to enter into the Final Design stage of the New Starts process, then Honolulu can procure rails, ties, other specialized equipment, commodities and demolition.

The FTA is very clear that full construction cannot begin without the applicant (Honolulu) applying for and receiving a Letter of No Prejudice.

The city has not come out and explained these requirements to the public.  Therefore, it is time for the city council and the media to ask for clarity.

Here are some questions to ask the city to get them to explain where they are in the FTA New starts process:

1. Please explain the difference between the Pre-Award Construction Authority that is applied when Honolulu receives its Record of Decision and the construction authority that comes with a Letter of No Prejudice?

2. Please tell us when you are going to apply for permission to enter into Final Design? Please tell us what the city needs to do in order to make this application?

3. Please tell us what will be accomplished in Final Design and why it will take almost a year to complete?





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