Administration Will Spend $1.8B to Build 20-Mile Railroad on 30-Mile-Wide Island

By Patrick Burke | February 13, 2013 | 12:45pm EST

Oahu island. (AP)

( -- The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that $1.55 billion in new federal tax dollars will be allocated for the first-ever Hawaiian Transit Rail system on the island of Oahu, which will serve downtown Honolulu, at a total federal and state cost of $5.1 billion.

The train circuit will be 20 miles long, with 21 stops on an island that is 30 miles wide.

The transit system will span from the lesser populated island area of Kapolei, and will end at Ala Moana Center Station, approximately 1-3 miles from the University of Hawaii and Punahou School, the high school once attended by President Obama.

The most recent DOT announcement brings the total amount of federal funds going to the Rail project to just under $1.8 billion. Funding will not been given in a single appropriation, but will instead be doled out in increments over the coming fiscal years.

An additional $4 million has been obligated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “stuimulus”), and $209.9 million is coming from other sources within the DOT. Both the $1.55 billion and the $209.9 million are proposed funding plans, and will be contingent upon future appropriations from Congress.

The $3.358 billion of the project’s $5.1 billion total cost will derive from Hawaiian sources that include but are not limited to excise taxes paid by Oahu businesses and residents, as well as tourists.

“The Honolulu rail transit project, the first of its kind in the state, will bring new transit options to the growing region and create a modern transportation system that is built to last for future generations,” said outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Dec. 19.

Although the most recent funding announcement took place back in December, the Honoulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) announced on Feb. 4 the completion of an archaeological survey, allowing the continuation of construction along the planned route.

In total, the rail system is expected to be 20 miles long and will have 21 stops, three of which will be situated in downtown Honolulu. Stops will also provide service to destinations such as Pearl Harbor Naval Base and Honolulu International Airport.

One of the primary reasons for the transit system’s construction is to alleviate traffic congestion in and around Honolulu. A study from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute ranked Honolulu second in U.S. cities with the most traffic congestion as of 2011.

The study also showed Honolulu motorists experienced on average 45 extra hours in traffic due to congestion, an 11-hour increase since the year 2000.

The island of Oahu has the largest population of the Hawaiian Islands, with a width of 30 miles.

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