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Feds sign $1.55B commitment for Honolulu rail project

By John Yaukey

Special to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 10:03 a.m. HST, Dec 19, 2012

WASHINGTON >> Hawaii received a long-awaited $1.55 billion check from the U.S. Department of Transportation today to continue work on a commuter rail project meant to relieve some of the vexing congestion along the H-1 freeway.

“I’m proud today to seal the deal,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a signing ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

The project, decades in the planning, was nurtured to fruition by the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who died Monday at age 88.

“This moment is an honor and a tribute to a person who has been great for the people of Hawaii and America,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka, speaking of his lifelong friend and colleague.

At the center of the signing ceremony were placed a gavel, a lei draped over a leather chair, and a vase of white roses in honor of Inouye, who will lie in state Thursday in the U.S. Capitol.

The federal funding was a long time coming.

“This is a huge milestone for this project,” said Hawaii’s Democratic Sen.-elect Mazie Hirono.

The project is expected to cost upwards of $5 billion, and will be completed in stages over the next several years.

It generated controversy for years because the proposed routes will cross ancestral Hawaiian burial grounds.

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