Thursday, April 7, 2011

Honolulu Contract Awards Found ‘Not Unusual’

Opponents of Honolulu’s rail system throw every conceivable anti-rail argument at the wall and hope something sticks. Civil Beat has just scraped another one off and sent it kerplopping to the floor.

One of their favorites is that Honolulu has awarded contracts to build portions of the elevated guideway and acquire train carios before it has received a full funding grant agreement (FFGA) from the federal government..

“It’s not unusual,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff during his visit late in March. Civil Beat, the innovative online subscription news service, decided to do one of its Fact Checks, a regular feature on the site that’s unique in local journalism.

“Undderstand that more than a billion dollars (the amount of the anticipated FFGA) is a very large number,” Rogoff said, “but it’s a $5 billion project, so you’re talking about 20 percent. Importantly, for the FTA to see how costs are really coming in, we review those contracts. The greater specificity and certainty we have to the actual project cost, it gives us greater comfort to know that the project’s sponsor can afford the project. So I wouldn’t view (Honolulu’s pre-awards) as out of the ordinary at all.”

Civil Beat’s Fact Check found five such projects “where large portions of the contracts were awarded before the FFGA” ranging from just above 20 percent to 75 percent of the projects’ total costs.

So it’s not at all unusual to award 20 percent in rail contracts before the FFGA is assured, according to Civil Beat. Another anti-rail argument has been swept away into the dead-argument pile that's growing over there in the corner.

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