HART violating FTA funding agreement?
Board member John Henry Felix says there might be a breach of contract with the feds
News Release from Grassroot Institute
HONOLULU, June 15, 2018 >> A leading board member of the Honolulu Area Rapid Transportation (HART) is worried that the semi-autonomous city agency may be in violation of its funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
John Henry Felix, a prominent Honolulu businessman and former 16-year City Council member who has been on the board for two years, told the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii that HART’s Full Funding Grant Agreement with the FTA requires HART to “achieve revenue operations” (i.e., start collecting fares from rail passengers) by Jan. 31, 2020 (see page 6).
HART’s plan, however, currently is estimating that the project will meet this goal in December 2025 (page 14).
Keli‘i Akina, Ph.D., president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said he was grateful to Felix for pointing out the apparent conflict between the “revenue operations” schedules of the FTA and HART, as it is one more indication of the cost and transparency issues that have been dogging the wildly over-budget and behind-schedule rail project.
“Being five years behind schedule is more than just a delay; it’s potentially a violation of the contract with the federal government,” he said. “This further points to the need for a full forensic audit for fraud, waste and abuse.”
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HART board member calls for forensic audit of rail
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii shares John Henry Felix's concern about rail costs and transparency
News Release from Grassroot Institute
HONOLULU, June 14, 2018 >> A leading board member of the Honolulu Area Rapid Transportation (HART) is urging his colleagues to fund an audit and re-appraisal of the entire Honolulu rail project, saying it is essential to re-establishing public trust in the project.
In a May 21 letter obtained by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, John Henry Felix — a prominent Honolulu businessman and former 16-year City Council member who has been on the HART board for two years — asked HART Chairman Damien Kim to, “take a deep breath of sorts and allow time for our board to commission a forensic audit.” (See full letter here.)
In his letter to Kim, Felix noted that rail costs have more than tripled since 2006, when it was projected to total $3 billion. He wrote that rail expenditures require “a closer look,” and that he believes the expense of the rail is now affecting the government’s ability to address other pressing issues, such as road repair, homelessness and police protection.
Felix urged Kim to put a high priority on financial transparency and put the question of a forensic audit on HART’s fixed board agenda and seek public testimony on the issue.
He also suggested that his board colleagues reconsider the original strategy for the rail project and examine halting it at Middle Street.
Keli‘i Akina, Ph.D., president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said he shares Felix’s serious concerns about the rail project’s cost and transparency issues.
“For more than a year,” he said, “the Grassroot Institute has been telling Hawaii’s leaders that the rail is losing public support. This letter by Felix makes it clear that this loss of faith extends to even the HART board.”
Akina continued: “There are now more questions about the rail than answers. And while the state and city have made attempts to audit the rail, those efforts do not go far enough, as witnessed by State Auditor Les Kondo’s revelation on May 30 that HART management has been listening in on his staff’s meetings with HART employees.
“The only possible solution is an independent forensic audit for waste, fraud, and abuse,” concluded Akina. “The people of Hawaii deserve to get real, honest answers about the rail, its rising costs and the many questions that have dogged its construction. This is a project desperately in need of sunlight and true transparency.”
PDF: See full letter here