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City wins fight to continue rail while re-examining final segment

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 01:31 p.m. HST, Dec 27, 2012

A federal judge ruled this morning that the city can proceed with its $5.26 billion rail project while it reconsiders alteratives to its downtown route.

U. S. 9th Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima ordered a halt of any construction activities in the final phase four of the 20-mile route from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, but did not issue an order halting construction on the first three phases. 

As the result of a separate case, the city has halted construction on the project after a Hawaii Supreme Court decision in August that said it must conduct archeological surveys on the entire 20-mile route. The city has said the survey should be completed this month.

In today's ruling Tashima said the city cannot proceed with the fourth phase downtown construction until it abides by his earlier decision that the city and federal officials reconsider alternatives of routing the rail through a tunnel under Beretania Street and reconsider the project’s impact on Mother Waldron Park in Kakaako and on traditional and cultural Native Hawaiian sites along the route.

Phase four construction was not expected to begin until 2014, city officials say.

"This is the news we had hoped for," said Dan Grabauskas, CEO and executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. "The judge's ruling allows us to complete the remaining work requested by the court, while keeping the project on schedule. These additional studies will be completed next year, well in advance of when construction was scheduled to begin in the City Center area. Oahu residents can look forward to seeing their rail system fully operational in 2019 as planned."

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, a staunch advocate of the project, applauded the ruling.

He called the decision “very reasonable and essentially what the city asked for.”

“It will allow construction to resume after compliance with the Hawaii Supreme Court decision, while other work will continue,” he said.  “And the city can address remaining issues in a timely manner without undue burden.”


The group suing the city and federal officials included former Gov. Ben Cayetano and longtime rail opponent Cliff Slater.

Cayetano said he personally expected the ruling, but was disappointed the judge didn't halt construction for the entire project.

"He was trying to find some equitable grounds," Cayetano said.

 Cayetano said he wants to talk to their lawyers, but it seems that the city still must do a supplemental environmental impact study to address Tashima's concerns about the Beretania Street tunnel and Mother Waldron park.  

The public will have a chance to comment on the city's findings, he said.

Cayetano said the group will be discussing the possibility of appealing to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals aspects of Tashima's ruling earlier this year that rejected their other claims based on federal environmental and historic preservation laws.


At a hearing this month, lawyers for an anti-rail group asked Tashima for a broader order which would set aside at least part of the Federal Transit Administration’s approval of the project.

City lawyers argued that such a ruling would deliver a crippling blow to the project.  They sought a much more limited order, which would restrict construction on the downtown route.

In his three-page ruling, Tashima essentially went along with the city’s request.

Judge Tashima's order in Honolulu rail transit lawsuit

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islandsun wrote:
Of course, why waste money on delays. And locals dont care about the bones anymore. If you want to go after the real rail criminals go for the conflicts of interest kings.
on December 27,2012 | 11:05AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Another steel spike in the rail track from beautiful Kapolei to Ala Moana!
on December 27,2012 | 06:24PM
islandsun wrote:
Dont know how you come up with beautiful Kapolei but Im sure you see it that way because its making YOU lots of money and money can be everything to somebody.
on December 27,2012 | 07:28PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Here we go! The responses start now!
on December 27,2012 | 11:06AM
OldDiver wrote:
This was the correct decision and the only one which made sense. The trenching is complete and the AIS will soon follow. A Beretania tunnel makes no sense and HART will comply with the judges last concern. The anti rail dagger is now broken and leeward residents can look forward to a better quality of life will rail.
on December 27,2012 | 01:20PM
billso wrote:
The tunnel was a very bad idea. Let's get the rail started already!
on December 27,2012 | 03:43PM
Kuniarr wrote:
The ant-rail criticism on rail funding and the cost to taxpayers has not vanished into thin air. As of March 31, 2012 the GET collections is way way behind at $858.73 million when at that time collections should have at the very least reached $1,214 million.

What that means is that collections are short by $322 million. To reach the target of $3.7 billion in GET surcharge collection, the average quarterly collections should be about $66 million. And at the rate the GET surcharge is collection is performing, it is most likely that collections would be short by $1.335 billion after the GET surcharge expires in 2022.
on December 27,2012 | 06:30PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
So basically Tashima says go ahead and build the part in the empty field but you can't build the part where people are. Huh?
on December 27,2012 | 11:07AM
Changalang wrote:
Why so shocked? Rail was always inevitable via the Aloha Spirit. Let's hope the Curse of the Iwi is only silly superstition, at this juncture in the process. Dare I say, Go Rail Go?
on December 27,2012 | 11:13AM
false wrote:
Did you say curse of the IWI. ouch!
on December 27,2012 | 11:39AM
Changalang wrote:
A lot of funky stuff happened during the H3 construction and I seriously hope this project goes much smoother. There was supposed to be some disturbed sacred sites during the H3 build.
on December 27,2012 | 11:54AM
false wrote:
Not to mention about the freeway around the waipauhu area. Also didn't something happen during Aloha stadium construction?
on December 27,2012 | 02:15PM
DPK wrote:
changalang: maybe that's why the roads are always being repaired and never fixed.
on December 27,2012 | 03:59PM
Changalang wrote:
I thought that was just cost shifting and low ball maintenance protocol. Nothing like seeing those guys pack in the dry asphalt from the back of a truck with hand tools. Just had to laugh; until I saw the cost increase for vehicle registration.
on December 27,2012 | 07:17PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
He meant "Curse of the 'Iwa". When informed of Tashima's ruling they reportedly exclaimed, "Frigate it all, just frigate it all."
on December 27,2012 | 12:07PM
Changalang wrote:
Looks like the Iwa made out pretty good with Rail. The curse is on the thief who never gets to spend his work's profits.
on December 27,2012 | 07:20PM
loquaciousone wrote:
We need rail for the mongooses and rats but not for people.
on December 27,2012 | 11:56AM
Mythman wrote:
I thought the people behind rail are rats?
on December 27,2012 | 12:36PM
mcc wrote:
and vultures!
on December 27,2012 | 02:27PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
I wouldn't say that. The first three phases includes places like Waipahu, Pearl City, Aiea, Pearl Harbor, the Airport area, Kalihi, and Iwilei, hardly "empty field" areas.
on December 27,2012 | 12:58PM
Kuniarr wrote:
The empty field is that in Kapolei in 2007 but voila! As if by magic a TOD in 2012 is being built around that empty field. Somebody must have dictated that a rail station to be built in an empty field in 2007. That Somebody must have been a prophet to predict that in 5 years that rail station in an empty field will be in the middle of a Transit Oriented Development project.
on December 27,2012 | 06:35PM
Wazdat wrote:
YES, just hope that the city can pull this off. I'm not so confident.
on December 27,2012 | 04:12PM
localguy wrote:
Rail supporters cringe at the fact willful incompetence by those in charge of rail was the direct cause of this fiasco. They also know there will be more fiascos to come from clueless rail management/HART/Grabby Boy. Be afraid rail supporters, be very afraid for the next fiasco to make it on the net.
on December 27,2012 | 11:19AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Note that the City is enjoined from any real estate acquisitions in Phase 4 until this brouhaha settles. Prices climbing.
on December 27,2012 | 12:10PM
Changalang wrote:
Well, if Rail construction stops at the Aloha stadium for a huge bus hub connect, at least it will be a functional transit system.
on December 27,2012 | 07:46PM
false wrote:
Just knew the judge would rule this way as he admittedly said he had not experience with something like this. With the so called "fiscal cliff" looming no matter how it turns out will congress still give the money for the rail. Go rail go?
on December 27,2012 | 11:39AM
loquaciousone wrote:
go away?
on December 27,2012 | 11:56AM
olos73 wrote:
Oh no, does that mean we going see Ben and his group in the news again? Give it up already. All the delays and millions of dollars wasted because of these guys. I hope they paying lawyers fees from their own pockets and not taxpayers money.
on December 27,2012 | 12:04PM
Rapanui00 wrote:
Case will be appealed just like the State Supreme Court case...The battle is far from over!
on December 27,2012 | 02:06PM
Changalang wrote:
It is not getting stronger. U.S. Supreme Court won't touch it. A three panel from Judge Wally's backyard is dismal. A full panel appeal won't be much better for youse guys. Unless you get a cease and desist until pending appeals or heard motion granted from Wally, it is safe to say that Anti-Rail has pretty much run out of steam. Sad, but true.
on December 27,2012 | 07:24PM
ichiban wrote:
What. Did you not read the court transcript? The very last paragraph said both sides will bear its own costs.
on December 27,2012 | 02:52PM
kainalu wrote:
Another spit ball in the eye of ... well ... we all know who. Buwahahahahaha!
on December 27,2012 | 12:08PM
krusha wrote:
Yeah, I was wondering why that guy hasn't posted anything yet... :)
on December 27,2012 | 01:13PM
MalamaKaAina wrote:
Another wooden stake into the HART of the Titanic rail scam......
on December 27,2012 | 05:13PM
false wrote:
Get ready for the property tax and vehicle wt. tax increases. We are going to be eaten alive for 20 miles of Rail. Antique Rail at that. How does that compare with China's new Rail equal to NY to Florida in 8 hours compared to US Rail 30 hours for the same distance. What are we buying for 5 billion? An antique. Yeah for the current leadership!
on December 27,2012 | 01:22PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
If we put China's new train here you would leave Ho'opili and arrive in Kaka'ako before you got to Waipahu.
on December 27,2012 | 01:58PM
momigirl wrote:
What road in Kalihi is the rail going to be on?
on December 27,2012 | 01:48PM
Rapanui00 wrote:
This is far from over - remember the Super Ferry....Rail is going down no matter what type of spin they put on it!
on December 27,2012 | 02:03PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Cayetano,gone,Berg, going.....super ferry, not related, courts rule rail to continue.....time to give it up slater.
on December 27,2012 | 06:30PM
entrkn wrote:
toot toot choo choo, I want to ride the train.
on December 27,2012 | 02:05PM
false wrote:
Disneyland has one up and running!
on December 27,2012 | 02:18PM
mcc wrote:
I wonder how much this monster is really going to cost?
on December 27,2012 | 02:28PM
DPK wrote:
mcc: The fun part will be watching the city operate the system.. All of the other infrastructure systems on the island are falling apart.
on December 27,2012 | 04:06PM
enoughisenough wrote:
Phase four is the key. Problems there will stop the project, sooner or later. Only question is, how much money will the city blow before then?
on December 27,2012 | 02:30PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
All of it.
on December 27,2012 | 07:14PM
ohelo wrote:
I'm glad I moved out of Ewa because of the traffic. All of the opponents (except that waha nui council member who didn't get re-elected) don't live in Leeward O'ahu, so they aren't interested in the transportation alternatives.
on December 27,2012 | 02:31PM
Wazdat wrote:
AGREE. We moved out of Mililani knowing its going to be a NIGHTMARE out that side for the next 5 years. GOOD LUCK
on December 27,2012 | 04:15PM
Kuniarr wrote:
The euphoria from the decision to continue work on the three phases of construction does not in any way eliminate nor make the funding limbo that Rail is in.

The flaw and weakness of this rail project is its GET surcharge collection

The GET surcharge collection, contrary an expected growth of 5.04% growth was down in the last year of GE collection ending June 30, 2012. From $49.80 million in the 2nd quarter of 2011 to $46.99 million in the 2nd quarter of 2012. Collections for the 3rd quarter of 2012 is until now not yet known when it should have been released as early as the last week of October 2012.
on December 27,2012 | 02:46PM
Wazdat wrote:
Oahu residents can look forward to seeing their rail system fully operational in 2019 as planned."

I doubt that will happen, but yeah GOOD LUCK to all who live, waipahu, aiea, pearl ridge,etc. The traffic is going to be NUTZ...

on December 27,2012 | 04:12PM
ChaelSonnen wrote:
it already is.
on December 27,2012 | 05:39PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Hahahahahaha, this so funny. You antis really make my day. Thank You.
on December 27,2012 | 06:32PM
Kapcity wrote:
Me too..all the rail haters..it must be really sick in their stomach.
on December 27,2012 | 06:51PM
WaialaeGuy wrote:
Well, it seems that the decision is more on the City's side because the judge didn't stop all construction, just a halt on the city section while they reexamine the Mother Waldron Park area and the Beretania St. tunnel. So you rail opponents have fewer straws to clutch at now.
on December 27,2012 | 07:49PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Eh,thanks waialaeguy! Antis need to know Rail support is island wide from progressive thinking people.
on December 27,2012 | 08:09PM
iwanaknow wrote:
OK, even if the rail takes til 2020 or 2021 to finish.....I wanna be around to give it a ride................Let everyone ride it for FREE for a week then sock it to them.......................allllllllllllllllll aboard!
on December 27,2012 | 08:07PM
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