Honolulu rail officials have been touting publicly the “high praise” they’ve received from their federal partners, but the feds won’t say whether they’re actually that impressed with the project’s progress.

Earlier this month, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation announced in a press release the “successful completion” of its most recent quarterly meetings with the Federal Transit Administration.

“FTA Regional Administrator Ray Tellis had high praise for the efforts of the HART staff, contractors, and support teams, noting that HART is leading the project in a continually improving and consistently positive direction,” the release stated.

HART Andrew Robbins speaks during Kapolei Hale meeting.
HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins has been touting “high praise” from the FTA. The FTA has stayed mum. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It further quoted HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins:

“‘I am very proud to see that the FTA recognizes the hard work and dedication of so many people here at HART,” Robbins was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The incredible team work that goes into completing a project of this magnitude and importance to the people of Hawaii is truly awe-inspiring, and I am happy to see that our efforts are not only paying dividends as we move forward but is also being recognized by our Federal partners.”

Notably absent, however, was any input in that press release from the FTA.

When asked last week whether the contents of the press release were correct, FTA officials declined to directly respond.

Instead, they pointed the federal agency’s Sept. 5 letter approving rail’s recovery plan. It stresses that the FTA won’t release rail’s remaining $744 million in funding unless the last major construction award comes in on budget and the city demonstrates that it can cover the cost. The award is slated to happen early next year.

On Sunday, Robbins again touted praise from the FTA, this time in an editorial column that ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“This past week, FTA held a meeting in Honolulu with HART and the city Department of Transportation Services — and I could not have wished for a better outcome. The interaction among all parties was open and honest,” Robbins said.

Robbins went on to quote Tellis again, saying he was “extremely impressed with HART” and told the local agency “…you have come a long way and are operating at a level that is pretty darn impressive.”

Neither Tellis nor other FTA officials had any input in Robbins’ column Sunday.

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