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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 21, 2010

Funding rail won't hurt buses

Advertiser Staff

Mayor Mufi Hannemann told federal transportation officials in Washington, D.C., this week that the city's planned commuter rail project will not compromise bus service in Honolulu.

In a news release Tuesday, Hannemann said he discussed with the Federal Transit Administration its "general concern about rail projects that rely too heavily on federal funds that pay for bus service."

In Honolulu's case, the city has proposed diverting more than $300 million in federal funds for buses to help pay for the train system if tax revenues fall short of what is needed.

Hannemann said he assured FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff on Tuesday the city would not compromise bus service. Hannemann told Rogoff that "any funding that is currently dedicated to bus service should remain in place," according to the news release.

Hannemann said the city will be able to cut costs on the rail project because contractors are bidding less than expected and private developers will help pay for station development.

Hannemann also met with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Sen. Daniel K. Inouye Tuesday to discuss the $5.3 billion rail project. Construction on the elevated rail line from East Kapolei to Ala Moana was to have begun in December but has been delayed as the city gathers approvals from state and federal agencies.

Hannemann told the DOT and FTA that tax collections dedicated to rail are at 99.5 percent of what the city projected in its financial plan.

Hannemann is in Washington to attend the 78th annual Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

While the mayor is away, the American Public Transportation Association, a group that lobbies for improved public transportation, is holding its annual business member board of governors meeting at the Ihilani Resort and Spa at Ko Olina.

"We're very pleased that the nation's largest nonprofit advocacy group for public transportation chose Honolulu for this important event," Hannemann said in a news release.

The meeting started yesterday and concludes tomorrow.