Honolulu rail’s federal partners have extended the city’s deadline to come up with a plan for what to do about the cash-strapped project from Aug. 7 to the end of the year.
The new deadline, disclosed in a Thursday letter from the Federal Transit Administration to Mayor Kirk Caldwell, gives local rail leaders a little more time to work with on the so-called “recovery plan,” but not as much as they had hoped.
The federal agency has a $1.55 billion funding agreement with the city to help build the island’s transit project. Meanwhile, the project faces a new budget deficit estimated to be at least $1.5 billion.
“Please recognize, FTA is obligated to protect the public’s very substantial investment in the project, thus we need to know the city and county’s intentions for resolving your planning, engineering and financial issues as quickly as possible,” FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers wrote in the letter.
Caldwell had hoped the FTA would give the city until June 1, allowing the city to wait until after the 2016 national election and the 2017 legislative session have ended to declare how it plans to deal with rail’s runaway costs. The new Dec. 31 deadline will allow the city to wait until after the elections, but not the legislative session.
Flowers’ letter also requires that city and federal officials meet next month to come up with an “interim” plan due by the end of September on how the project will “move forward.”
“My staff and I have several thoughts that should be discussed with HART during the month of August,” Flowers wrote.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, “I am extremely grateful to the Federal Transit Administration for understanding our need for more time to develop a financial plan to complete the project to Ala Moana and moving the due date from Aug. 7 to the end of this year.
“We look forward to working with the FTA next month on developing intermediate milestones and deliverables for an interim plan. At the same time we will be putting together our recovery plan due in December that addresses their concerns regarding costs, impacts to ridership, and functionality.”