Tuesday, November 4, 2008

City OK'd for next phase of rail system

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By Sean Hao

Approval a big step forward in obtaining federal funding

The Federal Transit Administration has given its approval for Honolulu to start the preliminary engineering phase of its planned $4.3 billion commuter rail project, the city said yesterday. Beginning the preliminary engineering phase of the transit project is a major step toward securing federal funding.

According to the Oct. 30 report by project management consultant Booz Allen Hamilton, the city has demonstrated that it is ready to enter into preliminary engineering. The report also says that Honolulu's schedule to begin service in November 2013 is "optimistic," and recommends the city ramp up its staff to handle added responsibilities.

The report also said that the project's cost estimates were "adequate and appropriate for a project in the pre-PE phase."

During preliminary engineering, the city will finalize management plans, refine the route's alignment and project costs, and identify benefits and impacts. After preliminary engineering is completed, which usually takes between 15 and 30 months, transit projects enter the final design phase, according to the Federal Transit Administration. If the project passes muster at that time, the FTA provides what's called a full-funding grant agreement.

The city expects to be awarded full federal funds in the spring of 2011.

The city plans to begin construction of a 20-mile rail line from East Kapolei to Ala Moana late next year, with full service starting by 2019.

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