Rail plan sent to FTA after a year of delay
HART presents a hard-won $2.4 billion to keep its federal partnership
The fourth time’s the charm.
At long last, city officials have delivered to their Federal Transit Administration partners a plan to finish the island’s oft-challenged rail-transit project — including what they hope will be enough funding to get the line to Ala Moana Center. Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation spokesman Bill Brennan said that the local rail agency sent its complete “recovery plan” to the FTA’s Washington, D.C., and San Francisco offices late in the afternoon on Friday, the latest deadline to submit that report.
The FTA had extended its original Aug. 7, 2016, deadline three times before HART finally hit the “send” button on a workable plan. In that 13-month period, HART saw its previous executive director, Dan Grabauskas, resign as the project grappled with a growing multibillion-dollar budget deficit. Numerous high-ranking officials also left the agency. Public debate over rail surged once more.
The state Senate saw a shakeup in its leadership over the issue. The
Legislature met in special session this month to bail out the project when its two chambers couldn’t reach a deal earlier this year. Tempers flared in private meetings as Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell clashed with his former rivals in the Legislature, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, over a suitable rail funding deal.
Neighbor island and tourist industry leaders protested their hotel-room tax dollars being lumped into the state’s solution to solve rail on Oahu, leaving lingering resentment once the special session ended.
On the heels of this year’s worth of frustration trying to solve rail, the recovery plan submitted Friday includes the state’s new $2.4 billion bailout package. A copy of the report will be posted to HART’s website on Monday, Brennan said.
Schatz and Hanabusa testified earlier this month that, based on their discussions with FTA officials, they’re optimistic the plan will be solid. Caldwell has pledged to return to the Legislature if it’s not enough.
An interim recovery plan by HART last September essentially reaffirmed the city’s commitment to find a way to fund the full 20-mile, 21-station system, while also proposing a “Plan B” to build a shorter line with fewer stations and no Pearl Highlands transit hub based on the money available.
Then, the 249-page recovery plan that HART submitted on April 30 left unresolved the main question of how to pay for the cash-strapped project.
Construction continued Friday on the city’s rail transit line in the area between Aloha Stadium and Pearl Harbor. Whether the line can be built to Ala Moana Center now awaits approval and continued support from the Federal Transit Administration and its $1.55 billion contribution to the project.