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Honolulu given go-ahead to begin heavy construction on rail

By Kevin Dayton

LAST UPDATED: 3:32 p.m. HST, Feb 6, 2012

The federal government has granted a key approval that will allow the city to immediately begin up to $184.7 million in construction and other activities on the city's rail project, including erecting the first sections of raised guideway from East Kapolei to Pearl Highlands.

The approval announced by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye today allows the city to move forward with construction before the federal government has actually committed to contributing its proposed $1.55 billion share of funding for the 20-mile rail project. The city hopes to obtain a final committment for federal assistance by October.

The federal approval for new construction work came in the form of a "letter of no prejudice" from the Federal Transit Administration that authorizes the city to proceed with building the rail system, but does not obligate the federal government to help pay for that construction.

"We have debated and discussed a rail transit plan for Oahu for decades, and I am very pleased that the administration is allowing the city to proceed with construction," Inouye said in his announcement. "Too many hard working families on the West side of the island spend too much of their time stuck in traffic.  This project offers an alternative to driving and helps lessen our dependence on imported fossil fuels."

Inouye also said construction of the rail line will create jobs.

The entire 20-mile rail line will extend from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, and will cost an estimated $5.27 billion. Most of that funding will come from a half-percent excise tax surcharge levies on Oahu residents and visitors.


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