Both sides of the Honolulu rail project argument are claiming victory Thursday after a U.S. District Court ruling was handed down.
This latest ruling could mean the $5.3 billion rail project may be delayed by months.
Click here to read the entire ruling.
The plaintiffs in this case includes Honolulu mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano, anti-rail advocate Cliff Slater, University of Hawaii law professor Randall Roth, and others.
The plaintiffs claim the city and the Federal Transit Administration violated federal statutes in the process of approving a 20-mile elevated rail project.
The judge sided with the plaintiffs with regard to failure to identify above-ground traditional cultural properties, which include Native Hawaiian iwi, prior to federal approval; failing to consider the Beretania Street Tunnel alternative; and failing to consider whether the project will constructively use Mother Waldron Park.
The court sided with the defendants on all other claims.
The city may have to do a Final Environmental Impact Statement with regard to Mother Waldron Park.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation released this statement: "We are pleased to see that the judge ruled in favor of the City on 20 of the 23 remaining issues, and flatly rejected the vast majority of the plaintiff’s claims. The project remains on course."
"On all the major issues, we have successfully shown that the project properly
conducted the required analyses and environmental studies. The ruling underscores the fact that the majority of alternatives were given proper consideration, including bus rapid transit, at-grade light rail and managed lanes.We will be carefully examining the ruling to determine what further course of action is needed."
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle also responded to the ruling: "This ruling does not stop the rail project that is so critical to our island’s future. In fact, the court dismissed the bulk of the plaintiffs’ accusations and upheld the project’s Environmental Impact Statement."
"We are confident that a reasonable remedy can address the remaining issues in a timely manner. Today’s ruling will require further analysis, but the bottom line is that the project can and should continue moving forward."
Bill Meheula, an expert on Native Hawaiian legal issues, responded with this statement: "Judge Wallace Tashima's decision held that the project's treatment of burials complied with federal law, and that BRT and managed lanes were properly rejected as reasonable alternatives to rail."
"Judge Tashima's ruling on Traditional Cultural Properties will likely not lead to an injunction because recent studies show no additional TCPs (tradition cultural properties) will be adversely affected by the project. The Court's ruling on the Beretania Tunnel will result in further studies that will show that like the King Street tunnel is also too costly. Finally, the Mother Waldron Park ruling will result in a further study that will likely find that the project is compatible with rail. In summary, the judge's rulings are relatively minor and would not have stopped construction."
Mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell also released this statement: "This is a victory for rail. The Court ruled in favor of the City and FTA on 20 of the 23 counts. It confirmed that the Federal EIS was done properly. Judge Tashima's decision further confirmed that BRT, managed lanes and light rail had been adequately considered and correctly dismissed as rail alternatives by the FTA. Further, that the project's treatment of burials complied with federal law.
"The ruling has raised some specific areas that need to be better addressed. If elected Mayor, I will work to ensure that these issues are addressed thoroughly and swiftly. I want to reiterate that these issues are not severe enough to halt rail. We can and will build rail better. In the meantime, we have all the other aspects of the city management we have to attend to as well. My promise is to be the Mayor for all of those issues, not just one of them."