Hawaii Supreme Court ruling puts brakes on rail

Hawaii Supreme Court ruling puts brakes on rail
Paulette Kaleikini
Paulette Kaleikini
Critics of Honolulu's $5.3 billion rail transit system said construction could be delayed until next March -- if not longer.

That's because of a blockbuster ruling Friday by the state Supreme Court, which is requiring the city to conduct a full archeological study for the entire 20-mile project before it can build.

"As far as I can tell, the project will probably have to be stopped," said rail opponent and retired state Appellate Judge Walter Heen.

Paulette Kaleikini, who is of Hawaiian ancestry, sued the city last year over its plans to handle Hawaiian remains and cultural artifact that are likely to be found on the rail route.

"I'm happy with the decision of the Supreme Court and the fact that they support myself and other native Hawaiians and our cultural efforts and our endeavors to protect our iwi kupuna," Kaleikini said at a news conference yesterday.

The city began construction of the $5.3 billion rail system in April.

At the time, the State Historic Preservation Division said the city didn't need to complete an archeological study for the entire project before it could start building. SHPD said the city could start so long as it began conducting separate studies for different segments along the rail line.

Rail officials completed studies of two of the four segments along the rail route. The final segment covering the downtown area was scheduled to be completed in March.

Mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano, who opposes rail, said the delays could jeopardize federal funding and accused the city of misleading the public about this risk.

"It vindicates what we've been saying all along," Cayetano said.
"We've been saying that an archeological study has to be done thoroughly and not in segments."
Kaleikini's attorney David Frankel said he plan to file for a restraining order or an injunction Monday if the city doesn't halt the rail project immediately. He says the delays could be longer if Hawaiian remains are found.

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