Council committees give rail recovery plan OK, but questions remain

Council committees give rail recovery plan OK, but questions remain

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The recovery plan for the embattled rail project was approved Tuesday by the Honolulu City Council's budget and transportation committees.

But city officials said that under the $2.4 billion bailout bill passed by the state Legislature, the city still has to come up with more than $200 million of its own money to finance the project's construction.

"Act 1 does not provide sufficient funding to pay for all of the rail construction and financing costs of the project," said city Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi.

The shift includes $160 million in marketing, administrative and operating costs that state lawmakers say the city should pay for over the next eight years. And there's another $54 million in miscellaneous costs.

"So how is this plan $54 million short in one area and $160 million short in another area?" said City Councilmember Kymberly Pine, a rail supporter. "It's very disappointing because the taxpayers (have) said they do not want property taxes to be used for any part of the construction."

Mayor Kirk Caldwell previously raised concerns that the bailout plan could force the city to raise property taxes or cut essential services.

But city officials offered a new plan, saying they can issue bonds to cover the $200 million.

Some council members hope the bailout bill will force the rail authority to trim its budget.

"I was interested to see this carve out of funds because that might force Hart to cut back on their expenses," said Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, a rail critic.

The full council will vote on the resolution to approve the recovery plan on Friday. The Federal Transit Administration must also sign off on the plan.

Rail officials said they expect a decision by the FTA over the next several weeks.

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