HI transit officials submit new plans for struggling $9B rail
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) has submitted a plan to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) explaining how it will make up an estimated $3 billion shortfall and handle schedule delays for a struggling $9 billion commuter rail project, according to KHON2.
The rail will now open in three phases and be fully operational by the end of 2025. The rail will fund its portion of the costs through state and local taxes and subsidies, including the $2.4 billion bailout signed by the governor earlier this month.
The plan counts on ridership growth despite a 10% drop over the last few years, but the plan considers how 5%, 10% and 15% ridership reductions would affect maintenance funding. HART said it will use advertising revenue, fees at park-and-ride locations and utility right-of-way charges to offset operations financing needs.
Local rail authorities around the country are planning ambitious projects — in some cases without state-level support.
In May, the Minnesota legislature voted down a bill that would have allowed the Minneapolis-area Southwest LRT light-rail project to meet the FTA's matching funds requirement. In response, the group spearheading the rail initiative, the Metropolitan Council, raised the necessary cash from surrounding counties, spurring the FTA to pitch in the $1 billion in grant money.
Caltrain's San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project, too, was in danger of being scuttled after California's Republican Congressional delegation tried to hold up a $647 million FTA grant earlier this year due to the rail's connection to the California High Speed Rail Authority's $64 billion bullet train initiative. The latter has been plagued with delays and allegations of financial problems. State GOP lawmakers wanted a full audit before any project that could benefit the bullet train received funding, as the project is expected to use Caltrain's electrified lines.
The federal government has the final word on approvals for rail projects in the U.S., and its answer isn't always yes.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board rejected a plan by Great Lakes Basin Transportation to build an $8 billion rail bypass around Chicago. The agency said Great Lakes did not have the finances necessary to take on the 261-mile project, with only $151 of net assets. The project faced intense local opposition, reducing its chances of moving forward even with the benefit of federal dollars.
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