Feds award $55 million for rail - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Feds award $55 million for rail

Mayor Mufi Hannemann Mayor Mufi Hannemann

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "Do you know how many states would love to hear what we heard today? This is unbelievable," Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said.

The source of his excitement is the Federal Transit Administration's pledge of $55 million to help build Honolulu's rail project.

President Obama okayed the funds as part of his Fiscal Year 2011 budget. The money was included in the FTA's New Starts funding.

"This is the first time the administration is initiating funding for Honolulu and this is significant," Hannemann said.

The $55 million is a first installment in the federal government's $1.55 billion agreement to help pay for construction of the elevated commuter train set to run between East Kapolei and Ala Moana. The FTA said the agreement could be signed by October 2011.

"Today's show of financial support validates the financial analysis, the evaluations that have been put forward for many years," Hannemann said.

But Gov. Linda Lingle has questioned the city's financial plan, saying it could hurt the state's finances if it fails.

Hannemann said she needs to get on board.

"We really would hope that she would start sending some positive messages and signals," he said.

But along with the promise of funding, FTA admnistrator Peter Rogoff said concerns remain at his level over the viability of the rail financial plan.

In a written statement, Lingle said Rogoff's comment validates her position that "close scrutiny of the financial plan for the City's rail project is warranted." She vowed to move ahead with an independent review.

Hannemann insists the project is good to go, saying the funding award proves the city's plan is solid.

"They know that this is an excellent project," he said. "If they didn't believe that was so, if they believed that it was shaky, they would not have approved what they have approved and announced today."

The $55 million in New Starts funding needs the approval of Congress before it can be released.

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