Tuesday, February 2, 2010

FTA Slates $55 Million for Honolulu Rail in '11; Agency Says Transit Project To Get $1.55 Billion

We knew something better would come along to write about on Groundhog Day than those silly online opinion surveys – and something did:

The Obama Administration has proposed to award Honolulu $55 million during fiscal year 2011 as a head start on a Full Funding Grant Agreement that eventually will reach $1.55 billion.

The Honolulu rail project is one of 27 major transit projects across the nation that would receive funding according to the President’s 2011 budget.

“These projects, planned and developed are crucial investments that will boost economic vitality in cities and towns across the country," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (at right). "From New York City to Honolulu and areas in between, these projects will create jobs, diversify local transit options for consumers, and stimulate economic activity at a critical juncture in our continuing recovery."

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff (at left) said: “Projects like these are at the very heart of President Obama's agenda to clean up our environment, reduce our dependence on oil from overseas, and put people back to work. They will give our citizens a way out of punishing traffic jams and improve their quality of life."

Speaking to reporters after the announcement, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said federal support for Honolulu rail is clear and urged Governor Linda Lingle to set aside whatever concerns she has about the project’s financial plan:

We would really hope that she would start sending some positive messages and signals,” Hannemann said. “Whatever it is that’s holding her back, cast it aside for the good of the people. This is a train that will bring economic benefits for people for years and decades and generations to come.
"I’m very pleased that Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff with Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood has proclaimed this morning great confidence in Honolulu city rail transit initiative… Today’s show of financial support validates the financial analysis, the evaluations that have been put forward for many years, and certainly it could not come at a better time, especially when the chief executive of this state is expressing strong concerns and reservations about going forward.
“For the federal government to also say today that we are committing to one point five billion dollars towards that full funding agreement that we will sign by 2011 is the ultimate. It’s wonderful news. This is going to be one of the highest amounts or awards ever given to a city in America….
“The other news that I want to put out today again is that in the new criteria going forward for transportation projects under new starts funding, there’s going to be an emphasis on livable communities. There’s going to be a collaborative effort between (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) and (the Environmental Protection Administration) to identify those projects that will bring about green communities, livable communities and sustainability. And Honolulu will rank again very high, mark my words. Why? Waipahu, Pearl City, Aiea, Kalihi, Chinatown, eventually McCully, Moiliili will all be the recipients and beneficiaries of a transit-oriented development concept.
"They know this is an excellent project. If they didn’t believe that was so or if they believed that it was shaky, they would not have approved what they have approved and have announced today. So, good news for Honolulu, even better news for the state of Hawai`i, because this is going to benefit all of us in the state….
When asked how soon he would like the Governor to approve the FEIS, Hannemann answered: “It’s not on her desk yet, and we knew that, but the fact of the matter is, and Peter Rogoff reiterated it this morning, that 13 state agencies have already opined, have already given their comments and suggestions. We’re working very closely with them. We’ve been collaborating very closely with the Office of Environmental Quality Control, so the fact of the matter is there has been a lot of consultation going on. We believe it’s 99 percent done. We really would hope that she would start sending some positive messages and signals.
“You know how many states would love to hear what we heard today? This is unbelievable, that we got the good news even before the EIS was released from Washington, so that validates the fact that they know that we’re doing a good job and we brought it to this point that they’re willing to go out and say one point five billion. So I really believe the Governor, whatever it is that’s holding her back, cast it aside for the good of the people. This is not Mufi’s train. This is the train that will bring about economic benefits for the people for years and decades and generations to come….”

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