City releases draft EIS on rail transit; groups still clash - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

City releases draft EIS on rail transit; groups still clash

Cliff Slater Cliff Slater
Kirk Caldwell Kirk Caldwell

By Diane Ako - bio | email and Joe Aikala

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The city releases a major report today, which does nothing to quell the controversy about rail. This 2 inch thick book is the city's draft environmental impact statement, released Sunday morning. The estimated costs to build rail have jumped, now $4.2 billion to $5.3 billion depending on the route.

Salt Lake Boulevard is one of the possible stops of the proposed rail line. The city says you'll see more than 20% less traffic with the help of rail transit. Opponents say that's all spin. Cliff Slater of Stop Rail Now hastily called an afternoon press conference. "Why did they take so long to release this? They're releasing it on a Sunday morning when they could've released it last week."

Slater's Stop Rail Now group said the report doesn't say anything. "We're very disappointed we don't have even the kind of access to information we had with the alternatives analysis." He and his staffers added that they only had a few hours to skim the material and will release more statements as they have time to study and digest the information.

At the supporters' headquarters, Go Rail Go, dozens of volunteers were ready to canvass more homes on Sunday afternoon, and they will do it again Tuesday. State representative Kirk Caldwell (D-Manoa) of Go Rail Go encouraged the volunteers to continue to tell people, "Rail is the best solution to moving people from their homes to their jobs so they can get home earlier and spend more time with their families."

Caldwell said the report confirms all that they've been saying, and more. "The draft EIS says traffic congestion will be reduced by 20%. Previously we thought it was going to be 11%. People are concerned the cost will be out of the ballpark. The draft EIS says that, adjusted for inflation, the cost is within the ballpark."

Opponents said it's just not true. Said Slater, "We're going to spend billions of dollars and traffic is going to get worse."

Here's another sticking point. Who will pay for the rail? The draft report says the feds "have agreed to consider" the city's request for $1.2 billion. Go rail Go says this is going to be THE economic stimulus for Hawaii for the near future. Stop Rail Now said think about it- the federal government has other economic problems on its table now.

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