Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said Friday that his government is weighing whether to stop building the city’s elevated railway system just before the Ala Moana Center, which makes the future of the mega-project more uncertain given the new budget gap of $ 3.6 billion makes.
The comments indicated that his administration is seriously considering tipping a plan to the Federal Transit Administration this summer, which Ala Moana will not reach, as the project has myriad problems of falling tax revenues, a sluggish economy, and record unemployment across the state.
“If I go to the free trade agreement, it will be with them where we think we can make it and how far we can go. Whether or not Ala Moana is included in this plan, I don’t know, ”Blangiardi told the Honolulu star advertiser’s online interview show Spotlight Hawaii. “This idea of how far we can go by rail or building to Ala Moana is almost at odds with the reality in which we find ourselves.”
“If the numbers don’t make sense (then), the strategy doesn’t make sense,” said Blangiardi. “Right now the numbers don’t make sense.”
Blangiardi has not indicated what the new endpoint could be if the line does not make it to Ala Moana. A few years ago, during an earlier rail budget crisis, HART and the city published a “Plan B” to stop the line in the city center near the Aloha Tower. However, state officials later delivered a financial bailout that put Ala Moana back on track.
The city has a long-term funding agreement with the Free Trade Agreement known as the Full Funding Grant Agreement, which obliges the city to build a 20-mile transit line with 21 stations from east of Kapolei to the Ala Moana Center. However, the city has long violated this contract as the railway line was inoperative until 2020.
The free trade agreement has tolerated the delays in assembly – the rail is not expected to be operational by 2031 for full service to the Ala Moana Center.
However, it is not clear what would happen if the city faced a penalty for not building the entire line. City guides have previously said they believe the city would lose at least its remaining $ 744 million in federal funding. You also raised the possibility that the free trade agreement also requires the city to repay the $ 806 million already used.
Last Friday, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation held an executive meeting for about an hour to discuss what this agency and the city are required to do under the FFGA. The discussion was originally intended to be public, but concerns that the discussion would include legal interpretations of the federal agreement prompted the HART board to speak privately instead.
On the same day, Blangiardi and HART Executive Director Lori Kahikina canceled their scheduled appearance to discuss the future of the railroad in this week’s episode of Insights on PBS Hawaii, a public affairs program. They cited “unforeseen circumstances” and refused to put other members of the administration in their place.
During the mayoral campaign, Blangiardi said the railroad must at least go across Dillingham Boulevard to service this busy and densely populated Kalihi corridor. He added at the time that a stop on Middle Street, a move many rail critics have advocated, is not an option.
“I’m unable to say we should stop,” Blangiardi said in October. “Until I know better, we have to go as planned, if possible.”
Rail’s total price is now officially estimated at $ 12.4 billion. In addition to federal funding of $ 1.55 billion, the rail is paid for primarily through a general Oahu general excise tax surcharge and some general city fund monies. It is not clear how the city would fill the recent budget gap.
“I told the free trade agreement no more than 48 hours ago that we would come to you with our plan, and there we are right now,” Blangiardi told Spotlight Hawaii on Friday.
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