At Last, Rail Lawsuit Is Getting Its Day in Court

Sara Lin/Civil Beat

A much anticipated lawsuit that could determine the fate of Honolulu’s $5.26 billion rail project is nearing an end, and the timing could affect the race for Honolulu mayor.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima will hear arguments about whether the city of Honolulu and the Federal Transit Administration violated federal law when choosing a 20-mile-long, elevated heavy rail system to link Kapolei to downtown Honolulu over other transit options.

The plaintiffs, which include former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano and, say they don’t believe the city thoroughly looked at all the options when analyzing the alternatives to the rail system, and is now proceeding with a project that will harm historical and cultural resources, including Native Hawaiian burial grounds.

Cayetano is running for Honolulu mayor on an anti-rail platform, and was the top vote-getter in the Aug. 11 primary. This lawsuit is one way he hopes to dismantle the project. His opponent, is former Honolulu Managing Director Kirk Caldwell.

While a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs won’t necessarily kill rail, it could significantly delay the project. It could also result in the city losing $1.55 billion in hoped for federal funding that would be used for construction.

Have feedback? Suggestions?