HART asks Washington for $1.55 billion - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

HART asks Washington for $1.55 billion

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

HART officially asked the federal government for $1.55 billion today to help build rail and the fate of the train depends on the response.

The city has been working on the application for seven years and now it's finally sent it to Washington.

"As of today the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has filed its Full Funding Grant Agreement application. It's a great milestone," said Dan Grabauskas, HART CEO, to the HART Board of Directors.

Now that application goes to the highest levels of the Federal Transit Administration and then the White House.  In about 60 days it will no longer be a draft and the final numbers will be inserted in.  Then it will go to Congress for 60 more days. By November the timing on the intent to award should be known.

With the Full Funding Grant Agreement comes the new financial plan.  The total project cost went down slightly $10 million.  The total is now $5.26 billion to build the train.

HART also expects to have $193 million left over at the end of construction although the CEO isn't guaranteeing there won't be cost overruns.

"I guess everyone likes to say there are no guarantees in life but I can tell that having punched these numbers and having looked at where we are and everything we can anticipate we feel we have a very strong application and so does the Federal Transit Administration," said Grabauskas.

HART has used $170 million in its contingency fund and construction just began.  However Grabauskas says using contingency money was always the plan and eventually they'll drain the $815 million amount down to zero by the time the project is finished.

"A draw down in contingency is not bad. An escalated draw down in contingency is something to be worried about. As long as we are drawing down contingency at the rate we are expecting, we're expecting to be at zero dollars in contingency account by the end of the project and I think that has been lost in the shuffle," said Grabauskas. "Your risk has been mitigated and limited to almost nothing at the end of the project and so you don't need a contingency for risk when you have no risk."

A lot is riding on the $1.55 billion federal hand out.  Without that money the project could be derailed. But Grabauskas is so confident it will arrive he's not talking about a backup plan.

"The US Congress has never reneged, never ever not delivered on a Full Funding Grant Agreement ever. Period," said Grabauskas. "I'll even go a step further and say I don't know of any project that has gotten this far to actually have the FTA say submit these documents that didn't get the award either."

"We've never had for example a House of Representatives propose to cut out all new starts funding all together. That's never happened before," said Cliff Slater, HonoluluTraffic.com and rail opponent.

Slater says it's foolish not to have a backup.

"It's always a done deal. It's a done deal until the day before it's an undone deal. There are lots of risks here," said Slater.

Part of the financial plan shows the operating cost once the train is running has gone up considerably.  However Grabauskas focused on the construction process for now and will worry about operating it later.

"We respectfully have some disagreements I would say with the Federal Transit Administration on some of the operational costs. I think they could be lower than they projected but that's something we can discuss over the next several years," said Grabauskas.

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