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Committees approve $250 million for Honolulu rail project

    A courtesy rendering of a proposed rapid transit station.

Honolulu’s rail project will receive its full federal funding share of $250 million for 2014, under a deal reached today by the House and Senate Appropriations Committee.

The agreement came the same day the Senate approved former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as the nation’s new Transportation Secretary, replacing outgoing secretary Ray LaHood.

In statements to Hawaii lawmakers, Foxx has pledged to work to complete the rail project.

“I am happy with the progress we have made today,” Sen. Brian Schatz said in a written statement. “Honolulu made an important decision to build rail transit, and it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that this transit system receives full federal funding in order to move forward.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono also praised the deal. “In these difficult economic times, when decisions about federal funding remain highly competitive, these actions by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees demonstrate that support for Honolulu’s rail project remains solid,” she said in a statement.

The funding represents the “single largest grant of any new start-ups project” in federal appropriations, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Executive Director Dan Grabauskas said.

Last year, prior to the rail project receiving its full funding grant agreement from the federal government, the House Appropriations Committee included only $100 million in its appropriations, and rail officials had to fight for the project’s full share, Grabauskas said.

The funding will come as rail officials plan to resume construction on the 20-mile rail line – and project spending is expected to accelerate significantly.

Federal transit officials last year agreed to a six-year, $1.55 billion funding agreement with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

The project received $14 million less in federal dollars than anticipated for 2013 because of budget sequestration cuts. However, federal officials have said that shortfall would be made up in later years.

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