FTA extends deadline for city to submit recovery plan for rail

FTA extends deadline for city to submit recovery plan for rail

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a letter sent to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, the Federal Transit Administration said it's giving the city a four-month extension to secure more funding for the cash-strapped Honolulu rail project.

HART issued the following statement:

HART thanks the FTA for its consideration for granting an extension into next year, which will now allow us more time to continue our work on the recovery plan and to work to with the necessary stakeholders and partners to secure the additional funding necessary to build the full 20 mile, 21 station rail transit system originally planned for Honolulu.  Toward that end, we also acknowledge the recent unanimous Honolulu City Council support for extending the county surcharge on the state General Excise Tax in order to complete the rail project.

Rail officials now have until April 30 to submit a new recovery plan to build the entire 20-mile route. The city actually asked for a July deadline to get legislative support for more money.

Rail officials, with the support of the City Council and Caldwell, are asking state lawmakers to extend the general excise tax again, but the bills won't be finalized by the end of April, leaving the extension up in the air before the revised plan is sent back to the FTA.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, former chair of the rail board overseeing the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, said in a statement she's confident that the FTA is committed to the city and the project.

While the FTA letter dated December 6, 2017 did not grant the City's request for a July 30, 2017 Recovery Plan submission date, it did provide an earlier date (April 30, 2017) that will actually benefit the City by allowing access to the next layer (tronch) of federal funds following the submission of an acceptable Recovery Plan.  I encourage HART, under the leadership of Krishniah Murthy, to continue working closely with the FTA as they prepare their Recovery Plan consistent with FTA guidance.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz also said he was hopeful for the future of rail.

The city has developed a more clear-eyed, realistic plan to get the rail project back on track. More must be done in the coming months to ensure we can complete the project, but this extension is welcome news ‎for Honolulu and is further indication of the FTA's commitment to the rail project.

City Council Chairman Ernie Martin had a different take, though. He called the FTA's letter "unacceptable," saying the feds want Honolulu to build the rail using the outdated $6.8 billion estimate.

This project cannot be viewed as a state or city issue. We all represent the same communities and recognize the potential that rail and Transient Oriented Development hold for the future of Honolulu.

The project is now expected to cost at least $8.2 billion and that could rise to $9.5 billion.

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