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Pro-rail Inouye says he will back Carlisle or Caldwell for mayor

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 7:13 p.m. HST, Feb 20, 2012

U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye says he will be supporting either Mayor Peter Carlisle or former city managing director Kirk Caldwell in the race for Honolulu mayor.

Although Inouye would not specify which one, he said in an interview today with Star-Advertiser reporters and editors that he would not be able to support former Gov. Ben Cayetano because of their opposing views on the city's $5.27 billion rail transit project.

"If asked to say anything, I would be in favor of rail," Inouye said of the role he may play in the mayor's race. "To be honest, I suppose I would support a candidate who supports rail.

"I'm not the type that goes out of his way to cut his own throat."

A key federal approval earlier this month cleared the way for this first segment of major construction for Honolulu's 20-mile rail line, and contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. will start work in March on the first 6.5 miles of elevated guideway for the rail system.

The city still awaits a full funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration that would clear the way for $1.55 billion in federal funds for the project.

"If Gov. Cayetano wins it would make the rail proposal a bit more difficult," Inouye said. "Right now, the federal government is in support."

Cayetano has vowed to kill the project if elected. Carlisle and Caldwell both are strong supporters of the rail project.

Inouye said he was suprised by a recent poll showing public support for rail had slipped.

Asked if work should continue on the rail project, 53 of respondents percent said no, compared to 43 percent who said yes, in the Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now poll released last week. The numbers were 49 percent yes and 45 percent no in a similar poll a year ago.

"I must confess I was suprised when I saw that over half had indicated disapproval," Inouye said. "But I feel certain that once the debate begins, and reasons are given, it'll change."

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