Decision on Honolulu rail lawsuit expected soon - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Decision on Honolulu rail lawsuit expected soon

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Today was the much anticipated day that the rail lawsuit was back in court. While both sides presented their arguments the judge did not make a decision, instead saying that will come in short order.

"We'll look forward to hearing what the court has to say," said Gary Takeuchi, City Deputy Corporation Counsel.

"We thought it went very well," said Nicholas Yost, Rail Opponent's Attorney.

Unlike in the past neither side claimed victory after today's hearing.  Although the judge did say he would like to see a reconsideration of alternatives with an open mind.

"The city is proponent so we know they don't have an open mind but we want to be sure the (Federal Transit Administration) does," said Yost.  "The fact that that worries him, it should worry him and we find that very encouraging."

"We want to build the project that we studied and that was approved," said Takeuchi.

There are three unresolved issues dealing with identifying traditional cultural properties, the impact on historic Mother Waldron Park and a Beretania Street tunnel as an alternative.

Rail opponents want the judge to vacate portions of the Record of Decision, which is the main document.  Without it there is no project.

"We couldn't continue with many of the activities we're doing now and the effect of that would be to stop the project. We explained what kind of significant harm that would cause to the project," said Takeuchi.

That would add $149 million in costs, construction workers would be laid off and most importantly the city can't get any of the $1.5 billion in the federal money if the Record of Decision is not complete.

The city attorney's pleaded with the judge that it's critical to continue work and vacating the record of decision would have substantial harm to the project.

"We have a number of contracts already in place. You're going to have delay claims associated with those, you're going to have escalations costs, you're going to have to recalibrate a lot of the project. It's very complicated there is a lot of interfacing between many activities and if you put that on hold the result is a huge impact on cost," said Takeuchi.

Instead the city says it will work on the three last sticking points that only affect phase four of the rail route.  In the meantime let the city continue working on phases one through three.

The judge's decision could come before December 19, when the federal funding is supposed to be finalized.

Both sides would likely appeal a loss.  The case would go to the historically environmentally friendly Ninth Circuit where rail opponents think they have the advantage.

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