HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The rail crosses another big hurdle. The Federal Transit Administration has signed off on $1.55 billion in federal funding for the rail project. The money isn't in Honolulu yet but the approval paves the way for it to happen.
The federal government delayed a decision until after the election. Now that pro-rail candidate Kirk Caldwell won The Federal Transit Administration has signed off on the $1.55 billion agreement.
"This is the best holiday gift the citizens of Honolulu could possibly receive," said Peter Carlisle, Honolulu Mayor. "It's a done deal."
The announcement is a huge milestone but it technically isn't a done just yet. The agreement now goes back to Congress to review. Then over to the Honolulu City Council. Then back to the federal Office of the Administrator and the Department of Transportation. It should be finalized around Christmas with the payout spread over the next five years.
City leaders say the federal government has expressed confidence in the project despite two pending court challenges.
"No road blocks have been put in our place as a result of the court cases, perhaps a detour and a little extra work we need to do but no road block," said Dan Grabauskas, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. "This is truly a historic moment for the project and one we're very excited about."
Hawaii's Congressional delegation said it will continue working to get the money in a timely manner.
"The path to this agreement with the federal government has not been easy, but like the construction of the H-3 Freeway for Windward Oahu residents, and significant improvements to Kalanianaole Highway for East Honolulu, the rail transit project will bring welcome relief to West Oahu residents who spend too much time stuck in traffic," said Senator Daniel Inouye, (D) Hawaii, in a written statement.
"I am so pleased that FTA and the city will be able to finalize the Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Honolulu rail project before my retirement. Administrator Rogoff's letter shows that federal government is confident the rail project is financially sound and has a realistic construction schedule," said Senator Daniel Akaka, (D) Hawaii, in a written statement.
The news is another blow to the anti-rail side which is still counting on winning the state or federal lawsuits in order to slow the rail momentum.
"Any move of that nature is a disappointment but the two lawsuits are the ones that really are the final arbiters whether any of this money can be spent," said Cliff Slater, HonoluluTraffic.com and plaintiff in the federal case.
"Rail is on the way. We've got the money. Get out of the way," said Mayor Carlisle.
History is on the city's side. Mayor Carlisle and Grabauskas say Congress has never reneged on an agreement when it's reached this point which is another reason they're confident it's a done deal.