- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Federal officials are holding back a half-billion dollars slated for Honolulu’s rail project.

The Federal Transit Administration has blocked release of the past two fiscal years’ worth of funds as the wait continues for an updated financial plan covering current cost estimates as well as a new project schedule, KHON-TV reported (http://bit.ly/1TNA8Th).

The administration said in a statement that it needs to approve the plans before releasing funds under a grant agreement.

The rail project is working with federal transit officials to update the financial plan and schedule.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation spokesman Bill Brennan said about $30 million remaining from fiscal year 2013 and untouched 2014 funds are available to pay the project’s bills.

A recently extended local tax is expected to generate $1.1 billion for the project. A transit authority spokesman said Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed the tax extension into law in February.

“In December, the GET surcharge extension was still being debated at council,” the spokesman said. “FTA instructed us not to provide an updated financial plan until after we knew what our funding would be.”

The transit authority has previously said the tax revenue may not cover all costs.

Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi chairs the council’s budget committee and says the financial plan has been a challenge, partially because final costs are uncertain.

“We don’t know how much contingency there is,” she said. “We don’t know what future expenses have to be paid.”

Kobayashi said she plans to ask project officials about the withheld federal funding ahead of a Tuesday budget meeting.

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Information from: KHON-TV, http://khon.com

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