What Does the FTA Want From Honolulu Rail?

Michael Levine/Civil Beat

In the final days of 2011, the Federal Transit Administration granted a key approval for the Honolulu rail project.

It permitted the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to start "final design" of rail, and allowed it to do everything short of heavy construction. But that approval came with the warning that HART still has work to do if it wants $1.55 billion of federal funds to build the 20-mile-long system.

The FTA's five-page letter made clear the agency needs more assurances before it green lights the funding. But the agency has declined to go beyond the language in the letter.

These two paragraphs outlined the concerns to HART:

Specifically, the financial plan states that additional revenues may be obtained from an extension of the General Excise Tax or implementation of value capture mechanisms. However, these revenue sources require actions by the State of Hawaii and/or the City that have not been taken and which are beyond HART's ability to control. Prior to the Project's consideration for an FFGA, HART should demonstrate the availability of additional revenue sources that could be tapped should unexpected events such as cost increases or funding shortfalls occur.

Additionally, HART made assumptions in three areas that require further justification or amendment: (1) the containment of bus and HandiVan operating expenses; (2) the increasing share of the City's annual budget required to fund the transit system; and (3) the diversion of Section 5307 funds from preventive maintenance to the Project. Prior to the Project's consideration for an FFGA, HART should either provide further documentation justifying the reasonableness of these assumptions or consider revising these assumptions to more closely follow historical patterns.

Civil Beat has delved into some of these issues before. Let's review what we know so far about what stands between HART and federal funding.

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