Court Date Approaches in Hawaii Rail Project Fight

     (CN) – Opponents of a controversial rail project in Honolulu will get their day in court before construction begins in September, the 9th Circuit ruled.
     The federal appeals court in San Francisco granted a motion to expedite on Friday and scheduled a hearing on the High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project for early August., Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, the Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Foundation, former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano and others sued the Federal Transit Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the city and county of Honolulu and several officials in 2011.
     They claim that the planned 20-mile-long, $5.3 billion elevated mass transit system, which would connect several of the city’s historic, tourist and business districts with suburban neighborhoods, will destroy “natural, historic, and cultural resources (including Native Hawaiian burials) and creat[e] a massive new four-story concrete barrier along the way,” according to the groups’ motion filed late last month.
     “If this court does not act, the very integrity of historic Honolulu, its Chinatown, and its waterfront will be forever despoiled,” the groups claim. “This case concerns the city and county of Honolulu’s efforts to use billions of dollars in federal funds to force an ill-conceived elevated heavy rail line through the heart of downtown Honolulu, despite the fact that other, less-damaging alternatives exist.”
     The groups say that the city plans to start construction in September.
     In a brief order published Friday, the 9th Circuit granted the plaintiffs’ motion to speed things along, while denying a motion to dismiss from the defense.

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