Honolulu Rail Delegation Seeks To Smooth Concerns In D.C.

Michael Levine/Civil Beat

WASHINGTON — The recent Hawaii Supreme Court ruling against the Honolulu rail project's burial inventory plan delayed the federal funding application and raised new questions in the nation's capital, city leaders said Thursday after meetings in Washington.

Still, those rail leaders as well as the Federal Transit Administration say they expect to have a deal in place by the end of the year guaranteeing $1.55 billion in federal funds, enough to cover about 30 percent of construction costs.

Mayor Peter Carlisle, Honolulu City Council Chair Ernie Martin, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation CEO Daniel Grabauskas and HART Board Chair Carrie Okinaga met with FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff and various members of Congress Thursday. The Honolulu contingent characterized the meetings as both an opportunity to reiterate local support and answer questions about the state of the project.

The key development since Honolulu submitted its funding application to the FTA in June was the court ruling that said the project could not take a phased approach to its cultural surveys and needed to finish test digs along the 20-mile route before proceeding with construction. Civil Beat reported earlier this week that the FTA should have finished reviewing the application within 30 to 60 days, but it's been more than 80.

"The bottom line is that the 60 days ran, and just about the end of that 60 days, the Supreme Court ruled," Grabauskas said. "So, logically the FTA is seeking from us information about two big questions: schedule and cost. And so what we've been doing for the last several weeks, over those 60 days, is really trying to answer the question."

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