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Hanabusa to join board overseeing city’s rail project

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    Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced former Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, right as his appointment to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) Board of Directors to replace Carrie Okinaga, who is stepping down to serve as University of Hawaii Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel .
    Rep. Colleen Hanabusa with U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, left, and Sen. Dan Inouye at a March 2011 press event in Honolulu.

Colleen Hanabusa, the former U.S. congresswoman from Waianae who narrowly lost her U.S. Senate bid last year, is joining the board that oversees Oahu’s cash-strapped rail project.

Hanabusa will replace Carrie Okinaga, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board of directors’ former chairwoman, Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Monday afternoon. Okinaga is leaving HART as she prepares to take a job as general counsel for the University of Hawaii this month.

Hanabusa, meanwhile, has been serving recently as an attorney for the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

A former state Senate president, Hanabusa lost a 2014 Democrat primary bid to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who had been appointed to replace the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, in a nail-biter election that came down to the voters in two Hawaii island precincts hit by Tropical Storm Iselle. Schatz went on to win the general election contest to fill the remainder of Inouye’s term.

Hanabusa’s appointment to the 10-member HART board comes at a tumultuous time for the elevated rail project, which faces a budget shortfall of as much as $910 million. The state Legislature passed a bill last month would extend the so-called rail tax by five years to close that gap, but it remains to be seen whether Gov. David Ige will sign the extension into law.

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