HONOLULU — A federal judge issued a mixed ruling Thursday on a lawsuit filed by former Hawaii governor and current Honolulu mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano and others to stop the city’s rail line.
Honolulu violated federal law by failing to identify above-ground traditional cultural properties before deciding where to build the line, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Wallace Tashima said in his ruling.
The city also didn’t adequately consider building a Beretania Street tunnel as part of an alternative to a rail line and didn’t properly evaluate whether the rail project would constructively use a Kakaako park, Mother Waldron Park.
But the judge didn’t find problems with how the city has handled burial sites along the route. He also didn’t order the project to stop, though he said it may be appropriate to issue an injunction in the case.
Tashima told both sides to submit by the end of the month their arguments for why the project should continue or be stopped. He scheduled a hearing for Dec. 12.
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said the court dismissed “the bulk” of the lawsuit’s accusations and upheld the city’s environmental impact statement.
“We are confident that a reasonable remedy can address the remaining issues in a timely manner,” the mayor said in a statement. “Today’s ruling will require further analysis, but the bottom line is that the project can and should continue moving forward.”
Michael Green, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the ruling was “a major victory.”
“They’re going to go back to the drawing board, and that drawing board is going to cost millions and millions of dollars,” Green said. He said it was “unfair to the people” for the project’s supporters to deny this.
Both Carlisle and Daniel Grabauskas, CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, noted the judge had the option to stop the project with his ruling but didn’t.
“What we’re really talking about here is supplementing some of the work that was included in the record of decision and the environmental impact statement,” Grabauskas told reporters outside Honolulu Hale.
He said the city aimed to finish the work required by Tashima’s ruling and archaeological survey work requested by a recent Hawaii Supreme Court ruling at the same time.