Honolulu is one step closer to securing $744 million in federal funds needed to build the city’s rail project to its planned terminus at Ala Moana Center.

In a letter sent Thursday, the Federal Transit Authority confirmed the city and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the agency overseeing the transit project, satisfied three ultimatums the federal agency set forth in September.

For its part, the city committed $44 million of its own funds for the project – the first time city property tax dollars will go toward building the rail project.

HART both pursued a public-private partnership to complete the project’s final stretch into town and submitted an updated recovery plan for the project to the FTA.

HART rail progresses near the Aloha Stadium Arizona Memorial.

HART rail progresses near the Aloha Stadium. Federal officials in a letter said the city and HART met deadlines outlined in September.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“It’s encouraging to us,” Acting Mayor Roy Amemiya told Civil Beat. “The FTA realizes we’re fulfilling our commitment to them.”

Federal funds won’t be released until the FTA approves the project’s updated recovery plan, which outlines how HART plans to pay for the $9.19 billion project.

The federal funds also won’t be released at once. The FTA’s letter said HART actually needs to follow the deadlines and cost estimates outlined in its recovery plan.

“In particular, FTA will continue to closely monitor the progress of the contract for the City Center Guideway and Stations and Pearl Highlands Garage and Transit Center, anticipated to be awarded by the end of September 2019,” the letter said. “This procurement remains the largest area of risk to the project.”

So far, the project has received more than $800 million from the FTA.

City officials wrangled over where to fund the $44 million in city funds for the project. Under a tight deadline, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell chose to float short-term commercial paper to meet the FTA’s Nov. 20 deadline. Doing so ultimately required the City Council to reverse a 12-year-old pledge that no city funds would be used to build the project. 

FTA Letter (Text)

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