Wednesday, May 26, 2010

‘What Doesn’t Kill Us, Makes Us Stronger’

Nietzche’s words are worth recalling while pondering the "Modern Times" cover story in the new edition of Honolulu Weekly on the predicted conflicts between the city’s rail project and buried remains of Hawaiian ancestors.

The piece’s critical tone isn't a killer, of course. It simply highlights the issue and strengthens the resolve to work with all concerned parties and agencies to minimize or completely eliminate the likelihood of disturbing those remains.

This is one of an unknowable number of issues the rail project will confront in the months and years ahead as it works to create a fast and frequent commuting alternative to riding on streets and highways. None appears to be a show stopper, including this one, which boils down to a disagreement among the parties on how to protect ancestral gravesites.

Some believe an archeological study of the entire 20-mile route should be conducted before any work begins. The City contends the studies can be done in phases, with the one for downtown Honolulu and the Kakaako districts (where remains are most likely to be found) accomplished years down the line.

Wayne Yoshioka, the city’s transportation services director, says a phased approach leaves the ground undisturbed until a time that’s more appropriate for detailed archeological investigation.

“To have completed this level of investigation at an early stage would have required excavating much larger areas through downtown because the locations of the (guideway) column foundations requires a level of design that typically takes place after the environmental impact statement and Section 106 of the (federal) National Historic Preservation Act processes conclude,” Yoshioka said.

The city is now waiting on the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement by the Federal Transit Administration.

The Weekly piece lays out a scenario that some believe will involve “controversy, animosity, great sorrow and angst.” It doesn’t have to end that way, of course. Another scenario would have everyone involved grow stronger in the process of resolving these issues.

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