Honolulu rail project remains eligible for federal funds with FTA approval of recovery plan

Oct. 3, 2022
The recovery plan hinges on the results of an environmental review assessing the proposed revised scope of the project and a portion of federal funds will be held until a key contract is awarded.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) remains eligible to receive the remaining federal funds committed to its rail project under a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) following FTA’s approval of its 2022 Recovery Plan.

“Since HART submitted the recovery plan in June, we have been working hand-in- hand with the FTA, meeting weekly, to keep the process moving toward recovery plan approval,” said HART Executive Director and CEO Lori Kahikina, P.E. “We are so thankful for the support and communication from the FTA to accept the recovery plan as is and amend the Full Funding Grant Agreement, which is unprecedented, so that we may see the project through to completion. It is a strong show of confidence in the work of this administration and in the cooperation and partnership with our many stakeholders.”

The 2022 Recovery Plan, which was submitted to FTA in June 2022, was required by the FTA to document HART’s plans for the completion of the rail project within the amount of funding that is forecast to be available. The recovery plan includes amending the FFGA to reflect a rail project that is 1.25 miles shorter than the original scope of work. The project will terminate at Civic Center Station rather than Ala Moana Transit Center and temporarily defer the construction of the Pearl Highlands Parking Garage, which will reduce the estimated project costs from $10.46 billion to $9.93 billion.

HART says the forecast funding is sufficient to cover the costs of the reduced scope. The rail agency intends a future phase of the project using non-FTA Capital Investment Grant program funds to build the remainder of the original rail line to Ala Moana Transit Center.

There is $744 million in federal funding that remains to be distributed to HART and, according to a letter from FTA Regional Administrator Ray Tellis, $125 million will be allotted at the conclusion of the FFGA being amended and a second release of $250 million will be contingent on awarding the City Center Guideway and Stations contract. HART projects the contract will be awarded in fiscal year 2024.

Amending the FFGA to incorporate the proposed shorter rail project is subject to National Environmental Policy Act re-evaluation, which the FTA is currently performing.

“We still have a long way to go, but this is an important step that recognizes the work HART and the city have done to provide more accountability and get this project back on track,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). “I will continue to work with our federal and state partners to make sure that we complete this project for the people of Honolulu.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.