Will A New Law Mean Federal Funding for Honolulu BRT?

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

WASHINGTON — Ben Cayetano says the bus rapid transit system he plans to implement instead of rail if elected mayor will be in line for some of the same federal funding as the project it's replacing.

That's because, Cayetano's campaign says, a new federal law that took effect Oct. 1 changes the definitions of "bus rapid transit" and "fixed guideway" in such a way that elements of Cayetano's FAST plan are now eligible for up to 80 percent federal support.

Here's a tweet Cayetano For Mayor sent out during a "FAST Forum" at Kalani High School Tuesday night that exemplifies this mentality.

A "cheat sheet" produced by one industry publication seems to lend some credence to the idea. But a closer look at the actual changes to the law — and a conversation with a Honolulu official well-versed in federal funding rules — suggests Cayetano's campaign might be overly optimistic about the likelihood of help from Washington, D.C.

The issue is scheduled for a public airing during Thursday afternoon's meeting of the Honolulu City Council's Transportation Committee. Chair Breene Harimoto has asked for a discussion-only update on the new federal surface transportation act known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or "MAP-21" for short.

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