Rail construction resumes Monday - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Rail construction resumes Monday

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The state's largest-ever public works projects gets a re-start on Monday.

More than 150 construction workers will go back to work after legal challenges side tracked Honolulu's $5.3 billion rail transit system for more than a year ago.

"Rail transit means jobs. In the longer term it will mean more our members will get a chance to live in Hawaii because they will be able to afford to live here," said John White, executive director of the pro-rail Pacific Resource Partnership.

Georgette Stevens of the West Oahu Economic Development Association added: "On the west side of Oahu there's a lot of people in construction and this is going to be a welcome, welcome opportunity for all of us."

But critics say the move is premature since a legal challenge to the rail system has yet to be decided by a federal appellate court.

"All they want to do is give the impression that this is a done deal and say to the public shut up and take your medicine and this is going to go forward," said Cliff Slater of Honolulutraffic.com, which has sued the city to stop the rail project.

Slater said he expects the Ninth Circuit to rule in his group's favor because the city didn't adequately address alternatives to the current heavy rail plan.

"It's absurd to be talking about something that's going to deal with the traffic situation when it's only going to Ala Moana Center, which doesn't even open until 9:30 in the morning," he said.

But rail supporters say the system will reduce traffic congestion. They said commuters have waited too long for a solution to this problem.

"As it is right now traffic is horrendous. And I cannot imagine in 30 years what it will be like without this rail alternative," said Stevens of WOEDA.

Added PRP's White:

"The Ninth Circuit has made no indication at all that it intends to stop rail," he said. "Rather than debating something that we've been talking about for the past 40 year, let's move forward. Let's do it right."

Rail officials say the delays are costing about $200,000 a day and that with those costs, they can't afford to allow construction to remain idle.

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