Oahu rail project back on track after airport plan approval

Oahu rail project back on track after airport plan approval
Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka

By Holly Juscen – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's full steam ahead for the $5.2 billion rail project. The city got the thumbs up from federal transportation officials, approving the airport layout route change.

Now it's moved into the environmental impact statement review stage. Wayne Yoshioka of the Hawaii Department of Transportation, says this is good news.

"We are very encouraged that the FAA came out and said that they concur, that's a big step."

Last month the city was forced to move the route of it's elevated track near the airport to avoid being too close to the runways. The fix in the plan required relocation of a rail station, about 300 feet mauka, to the corner of Ualena Street and Lagoon Drive.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann called the Federal Aviation Administration approval of the airport layout plan a key step in creating much needed jobs. Four Hawaii labor unions who endorsed Hannemann for governor agreed.

"We believe Mufi Hannemann has consistently delivered and will continue to deliver on promises to support projects like rail which will provide jobs for working families in Hawaii, " said Eugene Soquena, of Operating Engineers Local 3.

"Many of these unions are going to help us build this rail system. At the end of the day we need qualified, certified construction workers and I want to do it with as many local construction workers as possible," said Mayor Hannemann.

Yoshioka is reluctant to give a date as to when they might break ground on the rail project. First, the final environmental impact statement needs to be reviewed by six or seven agencies, then the public will get to weigh in and this could take months.

"The mayor has said all along, consistently that we are going to step through every process, we are not going to rush things," said Yoshioka.

The city had hoped to break ground on the rail last December, now they say the process is out of their hands. They can have to wait for several reviews and approvals, and that could take months.

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