City, opponents prepare for 'record of decision' hearing

Could cause setbacks, delays

Published  6:48 PM HST Dec 03, 2012
Daniel Grabauskas
HONOLULU -

"This is the best holiday gift the citizens of Honolulu could possibly receive," said Mayor Peter Carlisle about two weeks ago when the city got word the federal government had approved $1.55 billion in federal monies.

But now, laid in hundreds of pages of court documents is the case over one of the last hurdles before the rail project gets the unobstructed green light or gets bumped back to square one.

Opponents such as former state Judge Walter Heen want more studies on the historic value of neighborhoods such as Kalihi, Iwilei and Palama and want it done before rail work resumes.

HonoluluTraffic.com's Cliff Slayter is one of many opponents arguing the rail will hurt views around the waterfront, in Chinatown, and "destroy the historic sense of the place" in downtown Honolulu.

"We're simply going to lay out for the court how we're going to meet what the court has outlined that we need to accomplish," said HART CEO Dan Grabauskas last month.

The city is hoping a judge will accept what's called its "record of decision," or its report saying it's complied with cultural, state and federal regulations and should be free to proceed.

If not, Dan Grabauskas said in court documents, that it will result in "...the termination and rebidding of contracts," "...the loss of thousands of jobs," and essentially force the city to repeat its grant evaluation process, which he said "...could take several years."

The Federal Transit Authority called for a "limited degree of further analysis" in specific areas of concern such as Mother Waldron Park and the area called the Beretania Tunnel Alternative, adding any corrections should be "left to the agency's discretion."

The federal government is also against an injunction, calling that move a "drastic and extraordinary remedy."

Grabauskas said a "blanket injunction" by the judge next week on the entire project would be a "worst-case scenario."

But he said just stopping phase four to allow more study should still keep the project on track.

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