Federal judge urges HART to recognize rail route alternative

Published: Jul. 11, 2013 at 3:54 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 11, 2013 at 5:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for Hawaii, Susan Oki Mollway is urging rail transit officials to consider an alternative route for a major leg in the $5.3 billion rail system.

In a letter written on Monday, Mollway said rail officials should consider the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative, which "accomplishes the original intended goal of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project, while the Project's proposed route to the Ala Moana Shopping Center does not."

Judge Mollway points out that "The purpose of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project is to provide high-capacity rapid transit in the highly congested east-west transportation corridor between Kapolei and UH Manoa."

Mollway continues saying, "Remarkably, the Project's proposed rail route fails to run along (the highly congested east-west transportation corridor between Kapolei and UH Manoa) the very corridor expressly identified as the route the Project is intended to serve."

Mollway points to a judgment by Judge Wallace Tashima in 2012, which directed that: "Defendants must fully consider the prudence and feasibility of the Beretania tunnel alternative specifically."

Mollway's position is not legally binding, but expresses the position of the local court as if, it were any other tenant near the rail line.

In 2011, nine federal judges recused themselves from hearing a complaint that challenged rail. Judge Mollway was among the nine who said they made the decision based on a possible conflict of interest.

Mollway does point out that she is opposed to the current route because of "unresolved" and "serious security risks to the United States District Court building presented by the proposed route of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project."

The letter to HART CEO Dan Grabauskas and Federal Transit Administration official Ted Matley ends saying," the court urges you to recognize that the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative, which is a more prudent and feasible route for the Project than the route presently proposed, has not been adequately considered in the DSEIS."

A second environmental report released last month by HART found that the proposed tunnel beneath Beretania street would rack up huge costs.

The plaintiffs in a recent federal lawsuit, et al. vs. Federal Transit Administration et al., will hold a press conference at 2:30 PM today to discuss what they call and unprecedented action by the Hawaii District Federal Court.

Click HERE to read Judge Mollway's opinion.

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