WASHINGTON, D.C. (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's congressional delegation on Monday announced that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has given the City and County of Honolulu the green light to proceed with advanced construction on rail.
The FTA says the city may spend $184.7 million to begin building the foundation and pillars along the first segment of the Honolulu rail transit route.
In a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) the FTA will allow construction associated with the West Oahu/Farrington Highway segment, the Kamehameha Highway segment, the maintenance and storage facility, and the Farrington Highway stations group.
"We have debated and discussed a rail transit plan for Oahu for decades and I am very pleased that the administration is allowing the city to proceed with construction. Too many hard working families on the West side of the island spend too much of their time stuck in traffic. This project offers an alternative to driving and helps lessen our dependence on imported fossil fuels. The construction of the rail line will create jobs and help a construction industry that is always in need of good work. I will continue to do everything I can to support this project and direct federal funds to ensure its timely completion," said Senator Inouye.
"This means we will begin advanced construction of the foundation and pillars for the guideway along the first half of the rail alignment, and move forward on work on our maintenance and storage facility," said Toru Hamayasu, Interim Executive Director and CEO for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART).
The latest federal approval clears the way for additional construction on the first half of the elevated guideway from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, as well as work on the project's Maintenance and Storage Facility and three of the project's stations in Waipahu.
Work on the rail system's foundation and columns is scheduled to begin shortly, Hamayasu said. The City last year began relocating utilities along the Ewa portion of the rail route from East Kapolei to Pearl City as part of preliminary construction.
"We are pleased to receive this latest approval from the FTA that allows us to keep the project on track," said Damien Kim, chairman of HART's Project Oversight Committee. "With revenues coming in higher than projected, and costs running below our estimates, the rail project is moving in the right direction. This project will provide a much-needed boost to our local economy and create thousands of jobs. Once completed, rail transit will be the heart of an efficient multimodal transportation system to help deal with our island's increasing traffic congestion in a way that is consistent with 0ahu's development plan."
"This brings us closer to achieving a modern rail system that will allow Oahu residents to avoid traffic and lead to the development of communities that are more environmentally sustainable," said Senator Akaka, a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Rail opponents counter that there's no guarantee of federal funding. Rail critic Cliff Slater said the real message to the city is, "Go ahead and spend your $185 million of city money. And if there's any federal money ever appropriated, you can apply for it."
Slater also said opponents won't go to court for a preliminary injunction to block this part of construction because much of it is on agricultural land.
"The city people have told us, in writing, that if we prevail, any work that they have done, they will replace and repair and return the land to its prior condition," Slater said.
Here is the construction update for the week of February 5, 2012
Crews will work along Farrington Highway between Acacia Road in Pearl City and Kualaka'i Parkway (North-South Road) in Kapolei
Day Traffic Impacts
• Relocating utilities along the Diamond Head shoulder of Kualaka'i Parkway (North-South Road).
• Relocating trees between Waipahu Depot Road and Aniani Place, and between Fort Weaver Road and Old Fort Weaver Road.
• Soil sampling & utility work between Waipahu Depot Road and Aniani Place, and at the Farrington Highway - Kamehameha Highway junction.
• Shaft work near the Banana Patch and in the Waipahu H-2 Freeway entrance loop.
• Crews will be restoring test shafts in the Banana Patch on Monday, Feb. 6 and in the H-2 Freeway entrance loop on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 8-9 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Restoration work involves the use of a hoe-ram and surrounding businesses and residents should expect increased noise levels during the daytime hours.
Farrington Highway, H-1 and City Streets Traffic Plan
• Work will require lane and shoulder closures in both the eastbound and westbound directions Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Shoulder and median work signage/cones along the side of the road will mark the work area.
• One lane of traffic in each direction of Farrington Highway will remain open in the designated work areas. Flaggers will direct traffic along Farrington Highway between Fort Weaver Road and Old Fort Weaver Road in Ewa.
Motorists are advised to drive with caution and provide a safe distance between themselves and the construction workers and vehicles.