WASHINGTON — A new federal spending bill unveiled Tuesday includes $64 million in new money for Honolulu’s $10 billion rail project, which continues to face setbacks as it inches toward completion.

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz announced the funding in a press release in which he said the money will help the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation cover inflationary cost increases that have contributed, in part, to rising construction estimates.

Honolulu’s rail project is nearly twice its original budget and about a decade behind schedule. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022

It is the second time Schatz has secured extra money for the project despite its many challenges. The first time came during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when he helped obtain $70 million to help make up for lost local tax revenue.

“The federal government has already committed millions of dollars into the rail project, so finding new money was no easy task,” Schatz said in a statement. “We fought hard to make sure Hawai‘i gets its fair share of federal dollars, and this new money will give HART more resources to cover inflationary costs and finally get this project up and running for the people of Honolulu.”

Honolulu originally planned to build a 20-mile rail line from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center for a price of $5.2 billion. But delays, mismanagement and bad luck have resulted in a ballooned budget that’s nearly twice what officials promised despite the fact that the project has been trimmed from 20 miles to less than 19.

Construction is also far behind schedule, with an estimated completion now sometime between 2029 and 2031, which is at least a decade longer than initially planned.

The Federal Transit Administration has already committed $1.55 billion to the project, but has refused to allocate any more money despite repeated attempts by Honolulu officials.

Congress is expected to pass the new omnibus spending plan by the end of the week.

The bill will provide funding through Sept. 30, and includes huge sums of money for Hawaii, including $1 billion to help the U.S. Navy defuel and shut down its bulk fuel storage facility at Red Hill.

The World War II-era fuel tanks, which sit above Oahu’s aquifer, have long been a hazard to the island’s drinking water and last year sickened thousands after a major leak at the facility.

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