Honolulu council and mayor approve $214M for rail project

HONOLULU (AP) — The Honolulu City Council and Mayor Kirk Caldwell have approved a $214 million spending bill for the city rail project, officials said.

The bill approves an annual maximum of $26 million toward the $9.2 billion project for rail service from East Kapolei to Ala Moana, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

The bill is expected to be funded through the sale of bonds that would be repaid from the city’s general fund, which primarily includes revenue from property taxes.

The council passed the measure 5-2 Wednesday and Caldwell signed the bill Thursday.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officials said their projections did not show a need for money from the city’s general fund.

The Federal Transit Administration, however, insisted that the city make the commitment to pay a subsidy on the 20-mile (32-kilometer) line. The administration has held up about half of a promised $1.55 billion for the project after the projected costs increased from $5.2 billion.

The agency last year demanded the monetary commitment and a recovery plan showing show how the city would fund the remainder of the 21-station railway.

The bill makes no reference to a specific recovery plan, but a generic one “that may be revised and updated, and which may be adopted by the council,” city Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi told council members.

Community advocate Natalie Iwasa testified against the bill last week.

The funds cover the operating expenses for the city’s rapid transportation authority, “but we’re incurring additional financing costs because we’re paying them off over the long-term of 10-24 years,” Iwasa said in an email Monday. “That’s just not good policy.”

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com