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City wins federal approval to begin rail construction

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    Gov. Linda Lingle says a financial review of the city's rail project is necessary so taxpayers will know its cost

The Federal Transit Administration today gave its approval for the city to begin construction of Honolulu’s $5.5 billion rail transit system, Mayor Peter Carlisle’s office announced.

The FTA issued a "record of decision," indicating that the project has met all the requirements of the environmental review process.

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff presented the record of decision to Carlisle and Toru Hamayasu, general manager for the City’s Rapid Transit Division, at FTA offices in Washington, D.C.

"This is one of the most significant milestones for the rail project," Carlisle said. "We will soon be able to provide residents with a sensible alternative to our congested roads and highways and improve their overall quality of life."

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said the city has met all of the laws and regulations of the environmental review, "and we look forward to the day when Honolulu’s citizens can ride the rails in comfort, breathe cleaner air, and avoid getting stuck in time-wasting traffic jams."

The record of decision comes upon the approval of a "programmatic agreement," indicating the project’s impact on historic sites. The state signed the agreement earlier this month and remaining groups approved the agreement earlier today, officials said.
Other signatories to the programmatic agreement include the National Park Service, the Navy, the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the FTA.
The next step for the city administration would be to receive a Special Management Area permit from the City Council. The permit is required by law to ensure projects adhere to coastal zone management policies, including height restrictions, preservation of archaeological sites and ensuring adequate public shoreline access.
The City Council’s transportation and transit planning committee is holding a hearing on the permit today. If approved, the permit would go to the full Council for a final vote.
City officials have said the project does encroach into Special Management Areas due to its proximity to Pearl Harbor. 
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