Coalition says there’s still time to find a less destructive alternative to elevated heavy rail

Hawaii Independent Staff

HONOLULU—The road to rail transit for Oahu still isn’t paved. And a growing list of organizations and individuals in Honolulu want to remind residents of that.

A coalition formed to speak out against the City and County of Honolulu’s proposed elevated heavy rail project will participate in a demonstration today on the steps of Honolulu Hale at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, January 31. The coalition’s main spokesperson will be former-Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Demonstrators are concerned about the visual effects of the planned heavy, elevated rail through Downtown Honolulu.

Pearl Johnson, Chair of the League of Women Voters’ Honolulu Planning and Transportation Committee, said: “The City seems to have convinced the media that Rail Transit has permission to start construction—that ‘it’s over.’ It’s far from over. We are inviting any and all organizations and individuals who may want to join us at this event to do so.”

In January, The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued a Record of Decision for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project, confirming that the project has met all the requirements of the environmental review process.

And last week, the Honolulu Rail Transit Project received a key permit approval from the Honolulu City Council that allows the project to begin early construction activities. The City Council voted 8-0 to approve the Special Management Area Use Permit (SMP), which allows the City to move ahead with the construction permitting process for the rail project.

The City Department of Planning and Permitting, which oversees the SMP process, recommended City Council approval of the permit. The permit application concluded the rail project will have no significant adverse environmental or ecological effects on coastal ecosystems, beaches, or other coastal resources.

Some Honolulu residents continue to disagree. Opponents have long criticized the public hearing process that helped the rail transit receive FTA approval. Critics doubt the City’s claims that it had considered other alternatives in relieving traffic and question the City’s ability to afford such an undertaking.

“[We] are all keenly focused on protecting our historic Downtown district and waterfront,” Johnson said. “This is the decisive point of no return and once gone, an irretrievable asset.”

Current participants in the Coalition include:

- Individual AIA architects
- Advocates For Consumer Rights
- Friends of Makakilo
- Hawaii’s 1000 Friends
- Hoa’aina o Hawai’i'imiloa from Leeward Community College
- Donors of Irwin Park (represented by Michelle Matson)
- The League of Women Voters-Honolulu
- Life of the Land
- Oahu Farmland Alliance
- The Outdoor Circle
- Residents Along The Rail

The Coalition’s official statement of purpose is as follows:

“We support the construction of a sensitive transit system through Downtown Honolulu. We believe the City’s proposed elevated heavy rail project will destroy mauka-makai view planes, create a physical barrier between the city and our famed waterfront and disturb Native Hawaiian burial grounds along its right-of-way. Also, we believe that the proposed system will be an intrusion on the landscape, will forever alter the character of the communities through which it is built and will negatively impact the lives of people who live and work in Honolulu’s urban core. We consequently are united in our opposition to the construction of an elevated heavy-rail system through historic Downtown Honolulu and strongly urge consideration of a less destructive and more neighborhood friendly system.”

Related Story:

Honolulu Rail Transit gets the go-ahead from the Federal Transit Administration