City gears up for ferry, but feds not quite ready
The funding request is complete, officials say, dismissing a call for clearer standards
Mayor Mufi Hannemann's planned demonstration commuter ferry service between Kalaeloa and downtown Honolulu is on target to begin in July, despite federal concerns about the project, city administration officials say.
"We believe it is (on track) because we have met the requirements and addressed the concerns," city spokesman Bill Brennan said yesterday.
In a letter to the city Friday, Federal Transit Administration regional administrator Leslie Rogers wrote "strongly" suggesting that the city do more work before submitting an application for federal funding for the ferry project. The federal concerns center on determining the feasibility of providing parking for those who drive to the dock, and coming up with a way to judge whether the project is a success.
"FTA believes that clear performance standards must be established that fairly evaluate the results of the demonstration project," Rogers wrote to city Transportation Director Melvin Kaku.
Brennan said the city is preparing a response that will say the city has already addressed the concerns.
"We basically reiterated the points we had been making throughout the process," he said, adding that those points include:
» Because the ferry service will be a demonstration project, the cost to pave a lot and do other improvements for parking is "not prudent." The ferry operator will be asked to find off-site parking.
» Regarding concerns about local funding for the project, Brennan said the city has allotted $3.7 million in the current budget and is requesting $4.3 million for ferry and related bus operations in the next budget. An additional $1 million is being requested in the construction budget to design a larger pier to accommodate more passengers and vessels.
» The city will measure mobility, economic benefits to the community, ridership and costs. The ferry operator and a consultant will work on formulating an assessment to measure those goals.
FTA officials could not be reached for further comment.
At stake is $5 million in federal dollars slated to partially fund the yearlong demonstration project, which will also use buses to shuttle riders to and from the docks on both ends of the route.
The ferry service is nearly a year behind schedule. With a little over two months before the ferry is scheduled to leave the dock, some City Council members are worried about whether the city will be able to pull it off.
"I have been supportive of the administration's plan to do an intraisland ferry. I have a lot of doubts about the finances, but I think it's a creative idea if the feds are willing to give us $5 million," said Councilman Charles Djou. "The problem is that I'm no longer confident that the feds are willing to give us $5 million."
Brennan disagreed. "We believe we have met those requirements, and are now requesting FTA concurrence so we can submit our grant application."