The check may not be in the mail, but the application is.
On Thursday, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) submitted an application to the Federal Transit Administration for a full funding grant agreement, the first step in securing up to $1.55 billion in federal subsidies for the city's controversial rail project.
"We now begin the process...over the next 30 days, negotiating (and) working with them on what will become the final document," said Dan Grabauskas, HART's executive director and CEO.
After the FTA review is complete, a copy of HART's FFGA application will be forwarded to the White House Office of Management and Budget for another 30-day review.
Once the White House review of the FFGA is finished, the FTA can inform Congress of its intent to sign the document as part of a 60-day notification process. The FFGA will then go to the appropriations committee of both the U.S. House and Senate, where lawmakers can agree to the request, or make their own recommendations. If the House and Senate are at odds over the final amount, any difference in the FFGA would be worked out in conference committee.
Rail critics like Cliff Slater of HonoluluTraffic.com are skeptical House Republicans will set aside $1.55 billion for a project that polls show a majority of the public on Oahu is against. He said that's especially true with Ben Cayetano running for a mayor, a former two-term governor and anti-rail candidate who's leading in the polls.
"They're not going to fund anything that doesn't have strong political support, because they're just asking for problems down the road," said Slater.
However, Grabauskas notes Republicans in the House Appropriations Committee have already set aside $100 million for the rail project in a draft of the Transportation and Urban Development bill for fiscal year 2013.
"The fact that we got a $100 million from the House given the contentiousness and given the fact that we are not a grantee yet, we are only an applicant, put me in a good mind to think that we're in a very good position," said Grabauskas.
Still, the $100 million agreed to by members of the House Appropriations Committee was $150 million less than what President Barack Obama requested for the Honolulu rail project in his FY-2013 budget.