LOS ANGELES — Hawaii lawmakers will hold a special session in an effort to close the funding shortfall on Oahu’s elevated rail transit project.

State Senate President Ronald Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki emailed a letter to the Federal Transit Administration saying that they are committed to convening a special session this summer.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has said the lack of resolution on how to pay for the estimated $1.5 billion to $3 billion shortfall on the $8 billion project is putting federal funding in jeopardy.

The City Council agreed to issue $207 million in bonds for the project on June 7.

A train for Honolulu's rail transit system.
Honolulu tested a new train on three miles of completed elevated rail track in late May. Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation

Lawmakers have not agreed on dates for the special session or the content of the bill, but assured the FTA they will meet by August.

The state’s regular session ended May 4 without the an agreement on how to fully fund the project or schedule a special session. The planned 20-mile, 21-station rail line is intended to provide residents an alternative to Honolulu's traffic congestion, among the worst in the nation.

The FTA is contributing $1.55 billion in matching funds to the project, and held up its contribution in 2015 pending passage of an extension of Hawaii’s general excise tax that is funding the project. If lawmakers don’t find a solution soon, the FTA could rescind the funding agreement and force rail officials to return the $700 million already spent.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell thanked Kouchi and Saiki “for their leadership and their intent to provide the City and County of Honolulu with a dedicated revenue stream to complete the system to Ala Moana Center.”

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