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FTA administrator details support for island buses

MEDIA RELEASE

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka questioned Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff Thursday on federal support for the Honolulu High-Capacity Rail Project and neighbor island buses.

The exchange took place during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs entitled “Public Transportation: Priorities and Challenges for Reauthorization.”

This is the first hearing in a series organized by the committee this Congress to examine issues related to the reauthorization of public transportation programs.

Under questioning from Akaka, Rogoff noted President Obama has requested $250 million in federal funds specifically for the Honolulu rail project, that a recently concluded risk assessment found that risk was “under control,” and that the federal agency would be “working to make sure the project comes in on time and on budget,”

He also pointed out Honolulu “has some of the most punishing congestion in the United States” and as a result of delays to the project “the only thing that’s happened is the congestion on H-1 has gotten even worse.”

Regarding neighbor island buses, Rogoff told Akaka the agency would be providing support for fleet replacement and expansion on all the neighbor islands, and that Maui’s bus system is among the “fastest growing” in the nation.

“I am pleased to see the Federal Transportation Administration’s continued commitment to much-needed public transportation improvements across the state,” Akaka said. “While our bus systems earn high marks and are expanding to meet demand, congestion in the islands makes clear that there is still much progress to be made to improve our economy and quality of life through increased mobility. In particular, the Honolulu rail project, combined with sensible land use planning, has great potential to address Oahu’s severe congestion. It will benefit families, businesses, and visitors alike.”

Rogoff visited Hawaii in March with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. They toured local transit projects and met with Akaka, other members of the delegation, and local officials.

UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT:

Senator Akaka: Administrator, bus operations on Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island are some of the fastest growing bus transportation systems in America. However, they are relatively small in terms of the number of buses operated. In the past, the Congress assisted in funding the capital costs of many of these fast growing bus transportation systems through the Bus and Bus Facilities Program. What other programs could our rural bus operators use for federal capital assistance for their rapidly expanding operations?

Administrator Rogoff: Well, there’s a few, as I mentioned to Sen. Reed. Our State of Good Repair program will help them make sure that they have the funding to replace their fleet. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the bus provider on Maui and you are correct, they are one of the fastest growing players in the country. And when you’re trying to provide mobility around an island that just has a perimeter road, and you have gas prices the highest in the nation as you pointed out, those bus services are very critical. In addition to the State of Good Repair program for fleet replacement, we are proposing substantial growth as part of our policy proposals for the bus facility program. And our support under that program would grow as quickly for rural communities as it would for urban communities, and therefore the outer islands would get the benefit of that growth as well.

Senator Akaka: Thank you very much.

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