The Federal Transit Administration has given rail officials until Sept. 15 to demonstrate how they plan to make up the $3 billion shortfall, and the new bill should go a long way in demonstrating that. If the FTA doesn’t believe the plan is viable, it could require the state give back $800 million in grant money and would most assuredly not give the rail project the expected additional $700 million in funding.
Large infrastructure projects like the Honolulu rail typically require state funding in addition to federal support, so having state lawmakers on board is critical. A “no” vote on financing usually kills such initiatives, unless, as in the case of the Minneapolis-area Southwest LRT, local enthusiasm picks up the slack.
The Minnesota legislature voted against a bill that would have provided the balance of funding necessary for the light-rail project to receive almost $1 billion of matching funds from the FTA. Instead of giving up, the region’s Metropolitan Council raised the necessary money from surrounding counties. Even so, state lawmakers still tried to kill the deal and made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the FTA to hand the rail grant over to the state for use on other infrastructure projects, a proposal the agency rejected.