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City halts rail construction in wake of court ruling

By Kevin Dayton

LAST UPDATED: 3:38 p.m. HST, Aug 27, 2012

The city has agreed to temporarily halt all construction on the $5.26 billion rail project apart from some short-term tasks required for an orderly shutdown, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. said today.

NHLC lawyer David Kimo Frankel met with city and rail officials Monday afternoon, and issued a statement that “It is our understanding that the City has halted construction of the rail project.”

“For all intents and purposes, construction of the project has been halted although there may be some narrowly tailored, low-impact exceptions,” Frankel said in a written statement. 

Frankel said the city plans to complete “a few short-term tasks for public safety” such as backfilling open trenches, and plans to continue longer-term maintenance activities such as erosion control measures.

The city also plans to complete the required archaeological inventory survey for the 20-mile rail line, and undertake other “miscellaneous activities,” Frankel said in his statement.

He said the city is drafting a list to specifically describe those activities, and will discuss the list with Native Hawaiian Legal Corp lawyers to determine whether those activities should be allowed to proceed, Frankel said.

A spokesman for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation said HART will issue a statement later.

The NHLC sued the city and state over the rail project, and the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Friday that the State Historic Preservation Division violated its own rules by allowing the project to proceed before an archaeological survey was completed for the entire rail route.

In a unanimous ruling, the court found that rules governing the SHPD do not allow the SHPD to agree to the rail project until the city finishes the survey to determine if there are Native Hawaiian burials or other archaeological resources in the path of the rail line.

The city has been surveying the rail route in sections, and still has not completed the portion of the route in urban Honolulu where experts agree that burials are most likely to be found

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