The unity of federal, state and local officials who rallied behind Honolulu’s rail project Wednesday began to ease the concerns of the City Council’s transportation chair.

Breene Harimoto told Civil Beat Tuesday that he has growing concerns about the rail project, and said it would be “extremely difficult to continue the project” if his concerns are left unresolved.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Harimoto said his concerns were “somewhat” alleviated.

For the first time, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Federal Transportation Administrator Administrator Peter Rogoff, all four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation and Gov. Neil Abercrombie gathered at Honolulu Hale to hear a briefing from Mayor Peter Carlisle about the city’s $5.5 billion plan. Harimoto and his vice chair on the Transportation Committee, Ernie Martin, also attended.

“We didn’t talk about any of my specific concerns, of course,” Harimoto said. “But the fact that there was this total commitment from everyone that this will and must proceed is a positive sign. I’m absolutely convinced that the council and the administration will find a way to work through our issues. To me, it’s a given, after today’s meeting.”

Harimoto still hasn’t publicly discussed his “building and growing” concerns, and said he won’t until he talks about them directly with the mayor. Harimoto said Carlisle agreed to meet with him later this week. He said he also plans to schedule a special public meeting of the Transportation and Transit Planning Committee to “fully vet” the rail project’s financial plan.

However Harimoto has said a “major” facet of what worries him is what he sees as a lack of transparency and forthrightness from the administration and rail planners.

When asked about that Wednesday, the city’s chief rail planner, Toru Hamayasu, had little to say about how transparent he and other leaders have been about the rail project.

Civil Beat: Have you had a chance to talk to Council member Harimoto or others who have expressed concerns about transparency?
Toru Hamayasu: Transparency on?
Civil Beat: The feeling that there isn’t good communication between the transit division or the administration and the City Council.
Tory Hamayasu: We’re doing what we can.
Civil Beat: Have you had an opportunity to sit down with him or hear any of those concerns?
Tory Hamayasu: We have continued briefings, talk with all of the members of council.
Civil Beat: Are you aware that there are people who have raised new concerns?
Tory Hamayasu: Well, they said that in public meetings, and I think I responded. Whenever they ask questions, we always respond.

Managing Director Doug Chin was not available for comment, but the mayor’s press secretary confirmed that Chin has been meeting with Harimoto to try to address some of his concerns.

“He has been meeting with Councilmember Harimoto regarding his concerns and is taking them seriously,” Louise Kim McCoy wrote in an email to Civil Beat.

If the dialogue between officials is improving though, the public isn’t being let in on the details. Wednesday’s meeting between federal, state and city leaders was closed. In a media availability afterward, officials spoke mostly about their support for rail without going into detail about what the city needs to do to get critical federal funding.

Asked what advice he has offered the city as it continues moving forward with rail, LaHood said: “Stay on course!

“They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. We will continue to consult with the city, and the delegation. This project is too important at this point.”

Pressed again for an answer later, LaHood said he didn’t want to “get into the weeds” of explaining details, while a spokeswoman promised: “We’ll keep you posted.”

Civil Beat caught up with Carlisle when the meeting room had mostly emptied. We asked the mayor to share the questions he had for federal officials.

“The questions that I had to them are what are we doing right and what are we doing wrong,” Carlisle said. “They told us essentially that we were on track, we were doing things correctly and to keep on listening to what they had to say because they were going to hold our feet to the fire.”

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