Mayor announces major developments on Honolulu rail project

Mayor announces major developments on Honolulu rail project
Joe O'Donnell
Joe O'Donnell
Cliff Slater
Cliff Slater

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is going full steam ahead with three major rail announcements.

But opponents say not so fast. They say stopping rail is now beyond a public opinion issue, they say it's become a legal issue.

The wheels are in motion.

"So that we can begin now to create jobs," said Mayor Hannemann.

In an aggressive push for Oahu's Rail Transit Project, Hannemann announced three major stepping stones.

The first is the Rapid Transit Stabilization Agreement, or RTSA. It's a partnership that Honolulu leaders call historic. It's an agreement between the city and 12 major labor unions, to avoid costly delays, for example, by protecting the city from labor disputes, such as strikes. It's also designed to ensure local jobs.

"This agreement will allow all local contractors to participate in this project," said Joe O'Donnell of the Ironworkers Union.

Secondly, Kiewit Pacific and the city officially signed the $483 million contract to start construction of the first phase of the rail route from East Kapolei to Pearl City.

"Humbled, honored excited, all the things you go through when you pursue a project like this," said Lance Wilhelm of Kiewit Pacific Company.

And thirdly, the Mayor says the city will seek request for proposals (RFP's) for the project's second phase, which extends the route 3.9 miles to Aloha Stadium.

"Construction is projected to start on that section in early 2011," said Hannemann.

"The Mayor keeps trying to paint a picture that this is a done deal, you know, opposition will fold up the tent and go home. But it's not a done deal," said Cliff Slater, a member of, an anti-rail group.

Slater says it's too soon to say if they'll sue, but says they are doing their legal homework.

"We're tracking down all the environmental processes to make sure the city is doing what the city is actually supposed to do," said Slater.

The city does expect lawsuits, setting aside $300,000 for potential legal fights.

The Mayor's target date for ground-breaking is early January.

But first, the city has to publish its final environmental impact statement, then get state and federal approval, before construction can begin.