HONOLULU (AP) — A federal agency has approved a rail recovery plan submitted by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, officials said.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said the Federal Transit Administration approved the proposal submitted earlier this year, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

The recovery plan was submitted by the city transportation authority to demonstrate Honolulu has a workable proposal for completing the 20-mile (32-kilometer) rail line.

The line was originally estimated at $5.2 billion and was supposed to be completed next year, but the transit administration now projects completion in 2026 at a cost of $9.2 billion.

The approval recognizes efforts by the city and state to improve accountability and control costs, Schatz said.

"We have a long way to go but this is good news," he said.

The decision clears the way for the agency to release $744 million that is part of the city's funding grant agreement with the federal government, said Honolulu rapid transportation authority Executive Director Andrew Robbins.

"Without this approval, receipt of hundreds of millions of dollars for the project would continue to be delayed," Robbins said.

City officials expect the federal government to release additional rail funding early next year after a public-private contract is awarded to complete the last four miles (6 kilometers) of rail line.

The contract cost will have to be equal to or less than the cost estimates submitted and approved by the recovery plan, said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

"Counter to what opponents of the rail project continue to claim, the city remains on solid financial footing," Caldwell said in a statement.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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