The Honolulu City Council has preliminarily approved the latest versions of the rail project's capital and operating budgets for the new year. Bills 15 and 16 outline what the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will receive from the City and County for Fiscal Year 2019.
The measures call for roughly $500 million for operating and $2.5 billion in capital costs.
HART Executive Director and CEO Andrew Robbins told the council it is a critical time for the project as the agency hopes to open the first 10 miles of the rail as soon as next year. But he noted there are several important items that are not included in the operating budget, including funds for public information about the rail system.
"Education and providing information to the public is a critical part of the project. It's mandated by the FTA [Federal Transit Administration]," said Robbins. "It's absolutely essential that we do that, and provide information on construction impacts, impacts to businesses, community and residents."
Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi opposed the budget bills, citing her concerns about what she sees as HART's lack of transparency, and the uncertainty of the agency's public private partnerships, known as P3.
"I share the concerns of some of the testifiers today -- just there being a lot of questions still hanging over our heads about what that P3 looks like, and how that moves forward ," said Tsuneyoshi.
The proposed budgets will be further discussed at the council's next budget committee meeting.