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Former Gov. Ben Cayetano leads a press conference at Honolulu Hale against heavy elevated rail transit in January. Photo by Jamie Winpenny

Plaintiffs confident in lawsuit against elevated rail

in Rail

HONOLULU—Federal defendants in litigation aimed at derailing Honolulu’s rapid transit plans responded over the weekend to a complaint filed in May. Because of what’s been called a shifty response by federal attorneys, plaintiffs say they are now even more confident that they’ll have their way.

Plaintiffs in the complaint include former-Gov. Ben Cayetano, the Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Education Foundation (HEEF), Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, and Cliff Slater.

The complaint was filed in Federal court against the Federal Transit Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and Wayne Yoshioka, Director of the City Department of Transportation. The complaint contends that the defendants have failed to comply with federal law regarding the Environmental Impact Statement filed by the City for the elevated rail rapid transit project.

To read the federal defendant’s August answer, click here

To read the complaint filed in May, click here

In an emailed statement, the plaintiffs said the response by federal officials avoided answering factual questions or acknowledging specific information.

The plaintiffs pointed to a paragraph 112, in which they listed several “reasonable and prudent alternatives” that would have fewer impacts on resources to elevated steel-on-steel rail. Plaintiffs described a BRT program, managed lane alternatives, light rail, fixed guideway routes, transportation system management, and different locations for the individual stations.

The federal defendants responded by stating: “The allegations in paragraph 112 constitute conclusions of law to which no response is required. To the extent a response is required, Federal Defendants lack the knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of allegations in this paragraph and on that basis deny the allegations.”

Essentially, the plaintiffs argue that the defendants response to paragraph 112 proves their point: that government officials did not properly acknowledge existence of reasonable and prudent alternatives—something they were legally required to do.

“We’ve been expecting to win this case, but the weakness of this Answer reinforces our belief,” the plaintiffs said in their emailed statement. “In fact, we are now thinking about asking the judge to tell the defendants to hold off on all work on the rail system until the case has been finally resolved.”

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