City leaders go to Washington for rail meetings

City leaders go to Washington for rail meetings

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Construction is stopped until the end of September, but the Honolulu rail project is rolling right along. Honolulu's rail leaders have gone to Washington to meet face to face with federal administrators and they say the project has never been stronger.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell was joined by the City Council Chair Ernie Martin, Rail CEO Dan Grabauskas and HART Board Chair Carrie Okinaga. They say it's important to be front and center with the important decision makers especially since Hawaii is so far from Washington.

"All the lights are green. Let's just get this thing done and move forward," said Dan Grabauskas, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation CEO.

Grabauskas says federal transportation leaders did reiterate the city will get $14 million less this year in federal funding but every federally funded project in the country did too. The city will eventually get the full $1.55 billion contribution from the federal government.

"It was a very positive meeting. This is my fourth trip here and I can say by far this is the most positive message I'll be taking home to Honolulu with respect to our rail project," said Ernie Martin, Honolulu City Council Chair. "While there may be some speed bumps along the way I think the major hurdles have been overcome."

It was also Mayor Kirk Caldwell's first trip to DC since the election. He pointed out he and all the pro rail candidates won. They also updated the federal administrators that the archaeological inventory survey is done and 4,000 pages of reports have been submitted to the State Historic Preservation Division. The city has also supplemented the project's environmental impact study and is responding to the state and federal lawsuits.

"We're leaving no stone unturned. We're meeting the requirements requested by the court and even going beyond those requirements and therefore I think we'll do what needs to be done and we'll satisfy the courts," said Mayor Caldwell. "They were very pleased to see we are not only doing the bare minimum but everything possible to address the concerns raised in both cases and that we're on course to start construction again this coming fall and that's what they wanted to hear."

"We were sitting with the Secretary of Transportation for the United States who said this is a good project, it's a meritorious project and we're proud to have our money invested in it. I don't know what the future might hold but I will say today we are in as strong a position to move this project forward as we've ever been," said Grabauskas. "On our current schedule we hope to get in front of the judge later this year and also have the state and the federal case both addressed and put to bed by the end of the year."

Meanwhile rail opponents have asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for their case to be heard before construction starts up again in September and think the rail can still be stopped.

"We think we have a great case. You cannot just present a study of alternatives when the only thing you are studying is heavy rail," said Cliff Slater, rail opponent. "We all regard this as blight on the community both financially, visually and in every other way."

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