Transit chief wants update on rail plan

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's the latest segment in Honolulu's rail saga. The head of the Federal Transit Administration said the FTA is expecting an updated financial plan on the rail project from the City and County of Honolulu.

"We cite our concerns and we expect them to strengthen their plans as it goes forward," FTA administrator Peter Rogoff said in a telephone news conference.

Rogoff said the concerns include the latest proof that the city has sufficient resources to pay its share of the $5.5 billion the city estimates it'll cost to build the 20-mile elevated system.

"They also need to demonstrate to us that they have sufficient resources to keep the existing bus service operating and well-maintained," Rogoff said.

Honolulu mayor Peter Carlisle said he welcomes the oversight.

"We want him to be looking over our shoulder. We want his input. We want to make sure that he's holding our feet to the fire," he said.

President Obama's just-released 2012 budget includes $250 million for the rail project. It's on the FTA's list of pending full funding agreements.

The city hopes to get $1.5 billion overall. But any release of money needs an okay from Congress.

Sen. Daniel Inouye said he'll do all he can to steer federal funds toward Honolulu's rail.

Rogoff said if the president didn't believe the project would reach the finish line he would not have included it in his budget plan.

"We're very optimistic about this project. And it's going to serve a very critical need for those folks who are living through hours of congestion on the H-1 every day," Rogoff said.

"By investing in this type of infrastructure they're looking at making the federal government more financially sound," Carlisle said.

The city said the FTA's request for current numbers is normal as the project moves from a preliminary engineering phase to a final design phase.

The updated financial plan is due to the FTA sometime in the spring.

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