Rail gets federal environmental approval - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Rail gets federal environmental approval

The Record of Decision The Record of Decision
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle
Doug Chin Doug Chin
Breene Harimoto Breene Harimoto
Panos Prevedouros Panos Prevedouros

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

WASHINGTON, D.C. (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Federal Transit Administration issued a Record of Decision for Honolulu's rail transit project Tuesday. The document affirms the project has met all the requirements of the environmental review process as required by the federal government.

"This shows that our plan is sound and our project is on solid footing," said Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle who is in Washington DC to meet with federal officials about the rail line.

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said, "... Honolulu has met all of the laws and regulations of the environmental review and we look forward to the day when Honolulu's citizens can ride the rails in comfort, breathe cleaner air, and avoid getting stuck in time-wasting traffic jams."

"The groundbreaking could begin as early as March, and at this point in time there's no reason to think otherwise," said Doug Chin, Honolulu City Managing Director.

The 20-mile line from Kapolei to Ala Moana still needs the Honolulu City Council to issue a permit called a Special Management Agreement, or SMA. The chairman of the council's Transportation Committee does not think that will be a problem.

"The SMA parameters are very narrow so we can consider only certain things in that decision making and I think it is likely it will pass," said committee chair Breene Harimoto.

The city estimates the entire project will cost $5.5 billion. It is banking on getting $1.5 billion from congress. But none of that money is expected until late 2011 at the earliest, months after the city hopes to break ground.

"It is a big risk we are taking if we start construction before the federal money starts coming in," said rail opponent Panos Prevedouros.

Prevedouros is perhaps Honolulu's best know rail opponent. He said the new congress may not want to fund the rail line and he is urging the city to hold off on groundbreaking until that money is secured.

"Wait for the process to play out, particularly with this congress," Prevedouros said.

Prevedouros worries if construction begins and then congress does not come up with its expected contribution, Honolulu tax payers will be stuck with the bill.

The city acknowledges there's no guarantee the fed will assist with funding.

Carlisle will discuss the $1.5 billion in Washington Thursday when he meets with House Transportation Committee chairman John Mica.

"That, we are hoping will be a very productive meeting. The indications we've had are that representative Mica and other members of the transportation committee are positive about the rail project and we're hopefully going to be confirming that this week," said Honolulu Managing Director Doug Chin.

 

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