Feds Green Light Honolulu Rail Construction

Courtesy Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project

UPDATED 2/6/2012 5:15 p.m.

Honolulu on Monday got a key green light from the Federal Transit Administration and could start to spend $185 million of local tax dollars on heavy construction for the rail project within weeks.

Opponents said later in the day that they do not intend to ask a judge to stop construction. They say they've received a promise from the city that if their lawsuit against the project prevails, any work undertaken between now and then will be torn down.

The Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) received from the FTA allows Honolulu to spend $184.7 million to start building the foundations and pillars along the first segment of the route. The letter permits the city to spend its own money before the $1.55 billion it hopes to receive from the federal government is approved. The letter was announced in a joint press release from Hawaii's congressional delegation.

"This is great news for the rail project and for the community, and I would like to thank Senator (Daniel) Inouye and our congressional delegation for their strong support. I also appreciate the FTA's willingness in working collaboratively with us to keep this project moving forward," Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Interim Executive Director and CEO Toru Hamayasu said in the release. HART put out its own press release Monday afternoon.

The city had requested the letter in late December, warning the FTA that any construction delays could cost $110 million. Hamayasu told Civil Beat Monday that an LONP is "not a routine practice."

The city had requested approval to start construction on the West Oahu Farrington Highway section, including columns, segment fabrication and erection, installation of trackwork, third rail and other aspects of the fixed guideway. The city had asked for permission to spend $206.5 million.

The $21.8 million difference between the city's request and the FTA's approval is from the "precast yard," which the FTA expressly said was not included in the LONP.

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