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Legislative Leaders Target Special Session on Rail

June 19, 2017, 2:32 PM HST (Updated June 20, 2017, 5:59 AM) · 6 Comments
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Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (Kaua‘i, Ni‘ihau) and House Speaker Scott K. Saiki (McCully, Kaka‘ako, Kaheka, Downtown) sent a joint letter to the Executive Director of the Federal Transit Administration advising the FTA of the Legislature’s commitment to convene a special session in July or August.

train-light-rail-honolulu-uh

Honolulu’s rail project is set to become one of Mufi Hannemann’s legacies. UH photo.

No specific dates have been set for the special session and no rail funding mechanism has been agreed upon.

Speaker Saiki and President Kouchi said that, “after working with members of our federal delegation, it was deemed necessary and prudent to assure the FTA that the Legislature recognizes and understands the requirements under the Full Funding Grant Agreement between the City and County of Honolulu and the FTA.”

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The letter states:

We write this letter to the Federal Transit Administration in our capacity as President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, Hawaii State Legislature. The purpose of this letter is to to communicate the strength of our collective resolve to craft a legislative solution that will provide the City and County of Honolulu with a dedicated revenue stream that, along with the Full Funding Grant Agreement, will enable the City and County of Honolulu to complete construction of the Minimum Operable Segment (MOS) of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project. Given the travel schedules of our members, we are planning and commit to a special session in the July to August 2017 timeframe.

We acknowledge and appreciate the FTA’s coninuing partnership with the City and County of Honolulu on the HRTP and we invite any questions you may have regarding this letter and/or the upcoming special session to the undersigned.

Senator Schatz released a statement shortly after commending the leaders to hold a special session this summer to address rail funding.

“It is a highly encouraging sign that the leaders of the Hawai‘i State Legislature have assured the Federal Transit Administration that a special session will soon be convened. It is important that state and local governments continue to work together to ensure funding obligations under the full funding agreement will be met so that work on rail will be completed as agreed. I will continue my efforts to ensure that FTA understands our commitment to this critical project,” Schatz said.

Earlier in May, The Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association opposed Bill 1183, which would raise the Transient Accommodations Tax revenue to fund the Honolulu rail project and education.

And in early April, the House Finance Committee agreed to provide an additional $1.2 billion funding package for the financially troubled rail project estimated to cost a total of about $8.1 billion.

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