Feds Agree to Fund a Portion of $5.2 Billion Honolulu Rail Project

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City’s rail rendering

The Federal Transit Administration will award Honolulu’s rail authority a $1.5 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement for Honolulu’s $5.2 billion elevated steel on steel rail project.

That announcement came from Hawaii’s Senior Senator, Daniel K. Inouye, on Monday. Inouye is chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.


The FTA must notify Congress 30 days before signing the agreement, then Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will receive $200 million in New Starts funding from FY 2012.

Inouye said this is an important step toward providing federal funding for the Honolulu Rail Transit project.

“We have discussed and debated the merits of a rail line on the island of Oahu for the majority of my time in the Congress and I would like to thank Peter Rogoff and the Federal Transit Administration, President Obama, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for partnering with the City and County of Honolulu to build a system that will alleviate traffic congestion, lessen our dependence on imported fossil fuels and provide our residents, in particular those living in West Oahu, with a much needed alternative to driving. The Full Funding Grant agreement will provide $1.55 billion for the project and I will continue to work in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues in the Congress to ensure we appropriate what is needed to complete this project in an efficient and timely manner. The path to this agreement with the federal government has not been easy, but like the construction of the H-3 Freeway for Windward Oahu residents, and significant improvements to Kalanianaole Highway for East Honolulu, the rail transit project will bring welcome relief to West Oahu residents who spend too much time stuck in traffic.”

The city rail authority began construction on the controversial rail project this summer, but work was halted after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled the city had violated state law when it started construction without completing the Archeological surveys along the entire route.

A federal judge ruled in another case that the city violated federal law in three areas. A hearing is set in that case in December to determine what the city must do to rectify the violations.

Cliff Slater, one of Hawaii’s leading transportation experts and one of seven plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit against the rail project, said: “Today HART, the City, and the entire Congressional delegation announced they are sending the Full Funding Grant Agreement to Congress for the 30-day review required. If Congressional approval is received the City will get the first $200 million of the $1.55 billion for the rail line.

“However, the two lawsuits, one Federal and one State, still stand in the way of construction continuing. The state lawsuit will at least hold up construction for several months. The federal lawsuit is to be heard in Federal Court on December 12 and following that either the City or the Plaintiffs, Honolulutraffic et al., will unsoubtedly appeal the rulings in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Senator Inouye’s press release congratulated everyone involved in helping ‘build a system that will alleviate traffic congestion, lessen our dependence on imported fossil fuels.’

“The only problem with those two elements of the statement is that neither one of them is true. The rail project would do little to relieve traffic congestion and rail will use twice as much energy per passenger mile than TheBus. As the City itself has written, “traffic congestion in the future with rail will be worse than it is today.”

University of Hawaii Law Professor Randall Roth, who is also a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against the rail project, said: “Senator Inouye is obviously pulling out all the stops, but I continue to believe that the project will never be completed.”





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