Monday, November 28, 2011

Big Week for Honolulu Rail: Federal Lawsuit’s 1st Court Date, plus Likely Ansaldo Contract Signing

As 2011 winds down into the holiday season, the Honolulu rail project feels like it also is entering a new season, having passed through the planning and evaluation season that produced the Alternatives Analysis and Environmental Impact studies.

A lawsuit filed last May by opponents of Honolulu's grade-separated transit project will finally begin its courtroom phase Wednesday morning before visiting 9th Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima.

The defendants (officials of the City and County of Honolulu and Federal Transit Administration) have moved to dismiss some of the plaintiffs from the suit, saying they have no standing or should have pressed their case against rail during earlier phases. The court is expected to rule on some of those issues this week and schedule future proceedings.

The plaintiffs allege violations of federal environmental, historic preservation and transportation laws in Honolulu rail’s planning process. Just speculating here, but if city officials knew every step of the rail project would be under a microscope in court at some future date, wouldn't they have dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" throughout the process?

This lawsuit by long-time transit opponent Cliff Slater and friends was anticipated years ago, and now it’s finally here. The defendants likely will cite precedents and provisions of law that support the city’s actions over the years. We’ll know soon enough whether Honolulu has been cleared to begin the construction season.

Ansaldo Contract
Last Friday’s joint meeting of two Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation committees apparently satisfied their members that the Ansaldo Honolulu joint venture is financially sound.

Ansaldo STS CEO Sergio De Luca met with the committees for nearly three hours, after which HART Interim Executive Director Toru Hamayasu said the city could well sign its contract with the Ansaldo team this week.

Traffic Updates
Preparation work for Honolulu’s biggest project ever continues, and HART’s website is a handy reference for information on streets where work is underway to relocate utilities and trip and relocate trees. HART also maintains a hotline with information and updated work schedules at (808) 566-2299.

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