Federal transit officials told a Honolulu delegation in San Francisco today not to expect additional federal dollars to pay for a $2 billion shortfall in the city’s rail project budget.
At the same time, the Federal Transit Administration made it clear that stopping at Middle Street — rather than to Ala Moana as the city original promised — is not acceptable and warned that stopping the line short could put Honolulu on the hook for a $1.55 billion federal grant, the city said in a news release.
City transit officials announced in the spring that building rail now likely will cost an estimated $8 billion for the full 20 miles from East Kapolei to Ala Moana with 21 rail stations, about $2 billion more than what was estimated two years ago.
The FTA said today basically reiterated that its grant was contingent on building all 20 miles and 21 stations, city officials said.
The Honolulu delegation traveled to the FTA’s western regional office for two days of meetings and included Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Council Chairman Ernie Martin, Council Transportation Chairman Joey Manahan, Honolulu Authority for Rail Transportation Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa and HART acting Executive Director Michael Formby.
Leading discussions on the FTA side was Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers.
“Both Mayor Caldwell and Council Chair Martin asked the FTA for a commitment for additional funds,” the release said “The FTA’s response was ‘no.’”
The release quoted Manahan as saying: “We need the Legislature’s support to invest in a better future with us and to recognize the role rail will play in improving the quality of life for the people of Hawaii.”
Key state lawmakers told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this afternoon, however, that extending the 0.5 percent Oahu-only surcharge on the general excise tax would be a hard sell.
City officials said they are optimistic that the FTA will consider their request to extend the deadline for coming up with a recovery plan for the project funding beyond the current Dec. 31 timeline.