Cited are security issues, damage to historic sites, and extensive native Hawaiian burials known to be along the shoreline route.
Previously at issue has been that six of the shoreline rail stations are extremely vulnerable to tsunamis, storm surge and Ground Water Rise (GWR precedes Sea Level Rise.) What was originally a commuter rail project to serve the public was completely redirected into a major waterfront land development scheme to benefit large banks and land owners using Federal Transportation Administration monies.
The rail route now comes nowhere near the original traffic mitigation plan that the community wanted and voted for and greatly increases damage to native Hawaiian cultural and burial sites along the shoreline.
Eight high-profile plaintiffs, including Hawaii’s former governor, are also challenging the city’s Environmental Impact Statement in federal court.
In addition, all rail construction is on hold because of a state lawsuit challenging the impact of the rail line on native Hawaiian burial sites.
Also ordered by Federal Judge Wallace Tashima’s Nov. 1, 2012, ruling was identification of Traditional Cultural Places (TCP’s) that were missed in the original very rushed and shoddily done State Archeological Inventory Surveys (AIS) along the rail route. New additional historic and cultural sites as well as native Hawaiian TCP’s have been revealed that were previously ignored.
U.S. District Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway signed the four-page letter on behalf of the judges. The city plans to run the line alongside the Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Federal Building, which includes the courthouse and federal building. (See the full Letter from Hawaii federal judges)
The judges recommend the city re-route the 20 miles of rail away from the downtown and historic districts of Honolulu, as well as the shoreline and native Hawaiian burial sites.
“From the beginning we have wanted the city to comply with the law, the environmental laws, laws designed to protect historic structures … Other laws, quite frankly, require that they don’t just make a political decision and then rush into spending billions of dollars,” University of Hawaii Law Professor Randall Roth said to gathered news media.
“Instead, the law requires they rigorously and objectively vet all the reasonable alternatives, and I think this letter from all 11 federal judges here in Hawaii underscores that the city just has not done that,” Roth said.
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