LOS ANGELES — U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye was honored by the American Public Transportation Association Wednesday for his efforts championing Honolulu's elevated rail project.

The 20-mile Honolulu rail transit system, now under construction, will be the first driverless light metro rail system in the United States.

Inouye, who died last year, represented Hawaii in the U.S. Senate for 50 years. He was selected as the recipient of the APTA 2013 Distinguished Service Award at the organization's annual meeting in Chicago.

APTA selected Inouye for his tireless efforts "to improve mobility and seek transportation solutions for Hawaii's residents and visitors," according to an APTA statement.

"He was a man of vision, believing in our future, and was a true public servant, giving his time, energy and goodwill to delivering transportation benefits that have benefited generations of our island residents," Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

Accepting the APTA award on the late Senator's behalf were his former chief of staff, Jennifer Sabas, Caldwell, and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Grabauskas.

The rail project was first envisioned in the late 1960s. Inouye fought for the project during much of his 50-year tenure in the Senate. Mayor Caldwell said in a prepared statement that it was Senator Inouye's long-term vision for Oahu that made construction of the rail project possible.

Inouye was influential in securing federal funding for the Honolulu rail project, according to city leaders. He passed away on December 17, 2012, two days before the City and County of Honolulu and the Federal Transit Administration signed a full funding grant agreement securing $1.55 billion in federal funding for construction of the transit project.

In addition to his contributions to the Honolulu rail project, Inouye, as a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committees helped introduce the 2006 Maritime, Rail and Public Transportation Security Act, an authorization bill that provided $3.5 billion for transit security, and combined transit, port, cargo and rail security provisions. He also co-sponsored several important rail-related measures, including the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act.

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