Honolulu’s rail case goes before federal judges

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Opponents and supporters of the rail project made their way out of federal court, where they watched by television the hearing by a three-judge panel in San Francisco, Calif.

The judges questioned attorneys for both sides. Afterward, the city’s lawyer defended the rail development process.

“Which was totally vetted over the course of the last 10 years, which has had many, many, many public hearings and reflects the will of the people,” said Donna Leong with the Department of the Corporation Counsel.

At least two issues remain unresolved — what kind of transit system will be used and where it will go.  A key question is whether the rail system should utilize a tunnel under Beretania Street.

“And to ignore that without saying this is the reason why we don’t think it will work is arbitrary and capricious,” former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano said.

Opponents of the rail project also claimed in court that the city is moving forward rapidly with three west-side phases with a certain goal in mind.

“That’s why they started the project, gave out the contracts early, even though they didn’t have the money. They’re trying to get it to the point of no return,” Cayetano said.

All the while, the legal appeals are costing both sides.

“We’re probably getting close to $3 million when you look at the two, the Supreme Court case and this case, that we’ve spent defending this project,” Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation CEO Dan Grabauskas said.

Those are just the latest legal fees. Construction delays have also added to the overall cost of the project.

Any ruling from the three-judge panel is not expected anytime soon, or it could send the case back to the lower court.

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