Recovery plan for rail required by FTA ‘is not complete at this stage’

A recovery plan is due to the federal government in just over a week, but the head of the rail authority says answers are still up in the air.

At Thursday’s board meeting, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officials and testifiers said they hope the state Legislature ends up approving a lengthy extension of the general excise tax surcharge to pay for rail, which is billions short of what’s needed to finish the project.

HART is racing toward an April 30 deadline to tell the Federal Transit Administration how it will get the job done, and how to pay for it.

“The FTA is fully aware of the process that we are going through,” said Krishniah Murthy, HART interim CEO. “We have been constantly in touch with them and they have been following us very closely, so it’s not a surprise to them that the product we are going to give them is not complete at this stage.”

House and Senate differences need to be hashed out in the bill. The last version only extended the tax for two more years to 2029.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the construction division gave an update on two issues.

The first addressed those plastic shims used to level the guideway. They were cracking by the thousands, and now officials say all 110,000 shims along the line have been replaced.

Concerns about cracks in the rail cars themselves have also been resolved after a material defect was fixed by the train car maker.

Meanwhile, changes are ahead on the board itself.

Member Buzzy Hong announced he will be stepping down to accept an appointment by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to the Honolulu Fire Commission. The commission added two new seats through a charter amendment in the last election.

Hong and chairman Damien Kim are the only two board members who have been at the rail authority since the board’s inception.

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