Friday, November 27, 2015         

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Obama budget seeks $250M for Oahu rail

Sen. Inouye says he'll do all he can to ensure federal funds for the Oahu mass transit project

By Gene Park


Honolulu's planned rail system is part of President Barack Obama's $1.3 billion request for pending transit projects in his fiscal 2012 budget, which is drawing ire from top Republicans in Congress.

The city's High Capacity Transit Corridor Project was listed under "pending full funding grant agreements" and was budgeted for $250 million of $1.55 billion sought by the city. The agreements establish terms and conditions for federal funding in new transit guideway projects around the nation.

Obama sent his $3.73 trillion spending plan to Congress yesterday. House Republicans, who will be submitting their own budget blueprint in the spring, criticized the budget as failing to tackle the nation's fiscal problems.


President Barack Obama's budget outlined several pending agreements for transit projects nationwide.
» $300 million: Denver Eagle Commuter Rail, Denver
» $250 million: High Capacity Transit Corridor Project, Honolulu
» $200 million: Third Street Light Rail Phase 2 Central Subway, San Francisco
» $200 million: St. Paul-Minneapolis Central Corridor Light Rail Transit, Minneapolis
» $100 million: North Corridor Light Rail Transit, Houston
» $100 million: South East Corridor Light Rail Transit, Houston
» $50 million: South Sacramento Corridor Phase 2, Sacramento, Calif.
» $50 million: Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit-Initial Operating Segment, Orlando
» $45 million: New Britain-Hartford Busway, Hartford, Conn.

But budgeting Honolulu's rail project garnered praise from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who said he will do everything he can to direct federal funds for rail work.

"It is encouraging that President Obama, a born-and-raised Honolulu man all too familiar with Oahu's traffic woes, is dedicated to helping create jobs and lessen Hawaii's dependence on imported oil by providing an affordable alternative to driving," Inouye said in a statement.

Honolulu's rail is the second-largest item in Obama's list of pending full-funding agreements. Denver's Eagle Commuter Rail is budgeted for $300 million.

"We're really pleased that it's in the president's budget, as expected," said City Councilman Breene Harimoto, chairman of the Council's Transportation Committee. "Of course, the hurdle is getting it through Congress. We have Sen. Inouye working for us, so I'm very optimistic."

In total, Obama is asking for $1.3 billion for pending full-funding agreements. It is the largest chunk out of the total $3.2 billion in funding for locally run transit guideways. Obama's full budget request for the Federal Transit Administration is $223 billion, up from fiscal 2011's budget of $10.7 billion.

"He doubled the amount to spend on New Starts funding," said Cliff Slater, an outspoken rail critic. "He's talking about cuts on the one hand, and the other hand he's doing nothing about it."

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