By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The United States Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, all four members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, and Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie met briefly with Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle at city hall Wednesday morning to discuss the city's rail transit project.
After their meeting Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Senator Dan Inouye, Senator Dan Akaka, U.S. Representative Mazie Hirono, and U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa all spoke enthusiastically about the project.
"This project is too important at this point for the jobs that will be provided for Hawaiians, for the model transit program that this will create on the island, and I have no doubt that if we continue to communicate and work with the folks here this project will move forward and the people will be the beneficiaries of it," LaHood said.
"We've been working on this for over 50 years now and I am certain we are on our way," Inouye added.
"Everybody is 100% in accord that this is the right project for the right time. It's going to bring back jobs to Honolulu. It's going to put people to work and it's going to give us an alternative to a future that's going to be far more people, transportation, and community friendly," Carlisle said.
The city projects the 20-mile line from Kapolei to Ala Moana will cost $5.5 billion. The city is banking on $1.5 billion coming from the federal government.
The transit administration must agree to a Full Funding Grant Agreement before that money can be allocated, but secretary LaHood said the city is taking all the appropriate steps toward securing that agreement.
"I mean if you look at the president's 2012 budget, we're committed to this. There's money in the president's 2012 budget ($250 million) because this is a jobs program. This will put Hawaiians to work. This will continue to move the ball forward and look at. There's no lack of commitment from the federal side," LaHood said.
Honolulu City Council member Breene Harimoto, who chairs the city council's transportation committee, said the council is "very committed to the project, but I need to emphasize that there are growing concerns not only about the money but how things are going."
Harimoto told Hawaii News Now he wants to learn more about Ansaldo Honolulu, the company with a $574 million contract to build the project's 80 rail cars and system control center. He plans to visit at least one of the many cities where Ansaldo STS and Ansaldo Breda, Ansaldo Honolulu's parent firms, have done rail work.
"Preliminary research shows that other cities have had significant issues with that particular vendor, so we haven't done our full homework yet, but I think it raises enough questions and concerns that the council feels we need to investigate," Harimoto said.