Rail delayed, project still needs final EIS - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Rail delayed, project still needs final EIS

Mayor Mufi Hannemann Mayor Mufi Hannemann
Cliff Slater Cliff Slater
Panos Prevedouros Panos Prevedouros
Artist's conception of Oahu rail system Artist's conception of Oahu rail system

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Groundbreaking on the Honolulu rail transit was just two months away but today Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced that's been delayed until at least late January.

The city says the federal government needed more time to go over the impacts, which a rail spokesperson says they're glad to give because they'd rather eliminate potential problems now rather than down the line.

Mayor Hannemann's goal for the rail transit is to be on time, on budget and on schedule but with groundbreaking just two months away it's already delayed.

"I'm announcing today that I'm willing to push back our groundbreaking schedule for at least another month to allow the appropriate federal, state, and community organizations to cross the T's and dot the I's," Mufi Hannemann in a speech to a crowd of more than 200 invited guests at Mission Memorial Auditorium.

The Mayor shrugged off any negative message the delay would send.

"Thirty days, given our history, we've been waiting 40 years for this so to take another 30 days is minor," said Hannemann.

Opponents say delays are a sign of things to come especially when lawsuits start rolling in.

"I would imagine somebody is going to file a lawsuit, because there are so many legal deficiencies in the document," said Cliff Slater, HonoluluTraffic.com and also with Stop Rail Now. "They've got some problems. Whether they turn out to be insurmountable problems, or just potholes we'll see."

The city still needs to publish the final environmental impact statement. Then the Governor Lingle needs to accept it or she could halt the project right there.

Then the federal government will give one last check and give the okay to start construction with what's called a Record of Decision.

"That is exactly the time that if anyone has an objection to this EIS can sue because only at that time the feds have accepted the document and you can say well I have this A,B,C,D, disagreement, and I'm suing you for that," said Panos Prevedouros, University of Hawaii Engineering Professor and former mayoral opponent of Hannemann. "The lawsuit may come with an immediate injunction, so construction could start on day one and stop on day two. It depends on what the judge prefers and which level it will be taken."

The city is already expecting a challenge. It set aside $300,000 to fight any lawsuits. The Mayor even called out opponents in his speech.

"So I say to you out there if any group or agency is contemplating a challenge in these final hours I challenge you to offer a viable solution accompanied by a substantive funding source," said Hannemann.

Opponents say they did come with alternatives but they were all dismissed by the city which is one reason they may sue.

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