Feds extend city’s deadline for plan to fix rail funding
  • Thursday, March 21, 2019
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Feds extend city’s deadline for plan to fix rail funding

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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.”

FTA letter to Mayor Kirk Caldwell by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd

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  • This state has repeatedly ignored (or even WELCOMED) problems with the answer “the Feds will pay for it” (like COFA’s impact on Hawaii, the homeless, the rail, etc.), only to have the Federal money dry up and Hawaii taxpayers footing the bill in perpetuity. And yet we still re-elect the same people. This state is circling the drain, and the rail will be the wad of toilet paper it needs to help it go down.

    • There’s no fixing this, it was a god-awful decision to build such a ridiculous over-sized project from the beginning. And the fact that they built it backwards was a scam by the builders to make it difficult to stop building. Don’t let the scammers get their way – end this thing now.

      • The Feds want us to complete rail as planned. It makes no sense to stop at Middle Street and have a system that doesn’t provide the needed benefits.

    • ryan02, you and people like you have such a DEFEATIST attitude about the rail metro project. Instead of coming up with ways to making the project a success, you just dredge up arguments and reasons why the project will be a failure, and undermine all efforts to make it a reality. I never realized how many people are so reactionary, obstructionist, and regressive to every idea, project, initiative and proposal put forth, such as the Superferry, the TMT project, H-3, the Convention Center, Koa Ridge, Hoopili, and on and on. It’s a sad commentary on the cynical attitude of the public. Instead of being proactive, progressive,and optimistic, good, we have a lot of reactive, regressive, pessimistic, and backward looking people.

      • You are completely wrong. Many people propose better ideas, you simply disqualify them because it’s not a train. Highways are the king of infrastructure and do more to improve the quality of life of the people than anything else. We need to re-double our efforts to improve the highway infrastructure and end this distraction called the rail.

        • We have no space for more cars on the road. Traffic will still bottleneck in town. We need rail as an alternative for our future.

      • Vector, how much more are you willing to accept to complete the project to Ala Moana? This project started at $3.7 billion for a 26-mile route all the way to UH. When the final funding agreement was signed with the federal government, it had been scaled down to a 20-mile route costing $5.2 billion. The estimated cost has now risen to about $10 billion and likely to rise even more. I will ask you again, how much more are you willing to accept to complete the project? One more question: From where will the money come to pay for it?

    • The portion of H-1 from Aloha Stadium to H-2 intersection is the most congested section of highway in the State. The currently built guideway would be perfect for Express buses to bypass the congestion. Tear out the tracks, don’t build the stations, and put Express buses on it to bypass the traffic.

  • You think this is saving you, Kirk? This is not even a stay of execution for the fraudulent and failed Caldwell Administration. The FTA could extend the deadline till the next ice age and it won’t change what’s about to happen: Whether it be in three weeks or three months, Kirk Caldwell is getting fired.

    Hope the bank lets you keep that $200k/year part-time job even after you’ve been booted from office. You’ll need it for all those fancy aloha shirts.

        • A “wimp” who is the only one willing to stand up to Mufi in City Hall? A “wimp” who does a combat tour in Afghanistan (a REAL combat tour behind enemy lines at a FOB…not like Mark’s “combat tour” in a tent in Kuwait, or Tulsi’s “combat tour” behind the lines in a counseling clinic in Iraq)?

          I don’t 100% like the guy or all of his politics, but he’s the only one willing to stick his neck out, call it like it is and offer a different path. It’s MY money being wasted here, and MY VOTE for who gets to decide how to spend it.

          I’m voting Djou this time.

        • yotare, it is also my tax money being wasted if Djou ends the rail project now. Our Federal and State tax money, billions, has been invested in the rail project, to end it, would be throwing all that money down the drain, without anything to show for it, except a useless guide way.

    • yotare, sorry to disappoint, 75% of people polled by Ward Research are in favor of the rail metro going the full 20 mile length to Ala Moana Center. You are deluded to think that anyone else can be elected to stop rail, or end it at Middle Street.

  • Have you been to California recently and looked at your sales receipts? GET rate is anywhere from 7 to 9%. I remember California back in the 60’s was 8% and never forgot that I was glad I don’t live there. Our 4.5% is low. Let’s raise ours to match California’s and then we’ll be able to finish the rail to Alamoana Center. After that we should have enough money left over to build an underground Tube like London’s from Hawaii Kai to Alamoana Center. Note that the Tubes are 1000 feet underground! Deeper than the Thames River. Tunnel miners were even used to build the Chunnel so can do in Hawaiian soil.

    • So many people don’t know that Hawaii’s GET is not a Sales tax, and you can’t compare it to another State. Hawaii has an excise tax. California has a Sales tax. Hawaii’s excise is far worse than a sales tax. Hawaii’s 4.5 tax is worse than California’s sales tax.

      • Just looked at my income statement:
        Federal Income Tax- 13%
        Social Security- 6%
        Medicare- 1%
        State Income Tax- 10%
        State GET Tax- 4%
        Total Taxes- 24%
        GET surcharge for rail metro project- 0.5%

    • Another big fail with your thinking is that you fail to consider that Honolulu is a small City and has less money than a city like London. Please educate yourself.

      • Honolulu is part of Hawaii which is part of the USA. We get federal funding. USA is richer than the entire UK. Raise the sales tax so the tourists can help us and get the Senators to play nice nice with the Ways and Means Committee members.

        • Honolulu rail will get less than 25% federal funding. Please look at actual numbers instead of delusional numbers.

        • Do you even understand what these other commenters are trying to educate you on? WE DO NOT HAVE A SALES TAX SYSTEM SUCH AS CALIFORNIA. GET IT!!!! If you look at it as an end user, our “Sales Tax” if you must call it such is about 12%.

    • California does not have a general excise tax (GET) like Hawaii does. They have a “sales tax” of approximately 7.5%. And unlike Hawaii’s GET, Food and prescription drugs are exempt from sales tax.

  • When people build homes don’t they have a budget and plan before they start? The rush to start blinded the “planners” who forgot to have the plan for the budget. Our excise taxes were extended for 5 more years already. Any way you look at it, taxes will be paying billions for a train only the people who ride busses will be riding. I think City Hall should be moved to Kapolei and all the politicians who voted for this money pit will be required to ride it.

    • mcc, you know nothing about planning for a home. The Owner goes to the architect engineer, and says I want a palace, my budget is $10,000. The architect engineer comes up with the design and says we have to take this out and that out, because we are over budget. The architect engineer redesigns the palace, which is no longer a palace but an ordinary home. The plans go for bidding by Contractors, the bids come in, the home is still over budget. Redesign again, by that time, the Owner is angry and frustrated with the Contractor and the architect engineer. The redesigned plans go back to the Contractor, and he tells the Owner, some of the new parts of the redesign are expensive and are not included in his original bid. Now he has to issue change orders to cover the additional costs. Planning, budgeting, and scheduling are not as simple as you think. There are many unforeseen twists and turns.

    • To be honest, I think initially the rail will have quite a number of riders. If their friends go to ride, they will need to ride it too, just to see what it’s like. The no-like-feel-left-out attitude that always shows up when something new appears. Who knows, people might enjoy it and choose that as an alternative.

  • Come on Marcel, proof read your article. Feds have “a $1.55 funding agreement”. Well is it $1.55 billion, $1.55 million, $1.55 thousand? Responsible and professional journalism?

  • “My staff and I have several thoughts that should be discussed with HART during the month of August,” Flowers wrote.

    That is bureaucratese for “I am officially out of patience with Kirk Caldwell.”

    If I had to guess, I’d say FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers didn’t appreciate being quoted as saying the project had to go to Ala Moana luxury mall or they’d pull Federal funding.

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