- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 22, 2020

HONOLULU (AP) - U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has helped Honolulu get an extension on a deadline to develop plans for the last segment of the city’s rail line. The city had been required to submit a viable plan to the Federal Transit Administration by the end of this year or risk losing a $250 million federal grant.

The Democratic senator from Hawaii, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he worked with congressional leaders to include a one-year deadline extension in an appropriations deal.

“My objective was to prevent the loss of these federal dollars,” Schatz said in a statement.

He said the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, or HART, and the city must now revise their financial plan and “come back with something that can actually work.”

Honolulu officials had pushed hard for the extension.

Plans for the rail line’s final 4-mile (6.4 kilometer) segment to Ala Moana have yet to be finalized. There is fear that its cost will come in far higher than the $1.6 billion that HART, the semi-autonomous Honolulu agency in charge of building it, has estimated.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell sent the FTA a seven-page letter in November saying the $5.5 billion estimated cost for the 20-mile (32-kilometer) rail line has ballooned to $9.1 billion. Caldwell also said in his letter that the rail line is now projected to be finished in 2033, eight years after initially scheduled.

The rail authority’s board last Thursday decided not to renew the contract of CEO Andrew Robbins. Negotiations have begun to appoint a new interim CEO and president starting Jan. 1.

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