The following information was released by Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka:
The Honolulu Rail Transit Project is eligible to receive up to $510,000,000 in federal funds next year provided the City and County of Honolulu and the Federal Transit Administration sign a full-funding grant agreement by the end of 2012, Senate Committee on Appropriations Chairman Daniel K. Inouye and Senator Daniel K. Akaka announced.
The rail funding is one example of several Hawaii projects receiving funding in fiscal year 2012 after President Barack Obama signed the Conference Report on H.R. 2112, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012. The U.S. Senate approved the Conference Report on H.R. 2112 by a vote of 70 to 30.
The legislation includes the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture/FDA, Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bills, as well as a short-term Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government through Friday, December 16.
The money for which Honolulu's rail project would be eligible "shall be available for preliminary engineering, final design, and construction of projects that receive a Full Funding Grant Agreement during calendar year 2012," according to the bill.
"Federal funds are hard to come by in the current budget climate and Honolulu has an opportunity to secure significant federal support for this long awaited project designed to help alleviate traffic on Oahu. Rail transit will create thousands of jobs and bring welcome relief to commuters who are forced to spend hours in their cars each day inching through congested roadways. We have planned this project and debated its merits for decades and we must move forward. We must set aside our differences and work together. I remain committed to this project and will continue to do everything I can to direct federal funds to the work and ensure its timely completion," said Senator Inouye.
"Hawaii must continue moving forward to secure available federal funding for the rail project. We need to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to create jobs and improve transportation," said Senator Daniel K. Akaka. "I am also pleased that this legislation preserves support for Native Hawaiian housing, tsunami defense, law enforcement, and marine mammal protection, among many other important efforts. In particular, this bill responds to the concerns of two dozen of my Democratic and Republican colleagues, who joined me in requesting the reinstatement of housing counseling funding that was zeroed out last year."
In addition to money for rail, the measure also includes $13 million for Native Hawaiian housing and $386,000 for the Native Hawaiian Housing Loan Guarantee Fund. The $386,000 translates into $41,504,000 in loan authority for the program and includes language that will allow borrowers to refinance their mortgages which they are not currently allowed to do.
The bill also includes $1,456,083 for fruit fly eradication, minor crop pest control, papaya ringspot research, and sugarcane research. Native Hawaiian Serving Education grants received $1,597,000, women and minorities in Science Technology Engineering and Math fields received $400,000, and $1,996,000 was provided to help geographically disadvantaged farmers and ranchers get their products to market.
There are also funds for marine mammal and sea turtle protection, climate research, marine debris cleanup, fishery maintenance, at-risk youth mentoring, and other programs.