Heavy Rail Not Best Transit Alternative for Honolulu

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Some things are worth repeating. We wrote this originally last September 8 and since it is at the heart of our federal court Complaint we thought it well worth repeating. This is especially so since the U.S. Justice Department is due to respond to our Complaint later today.



The above images are of the Waipahu rail transit station showing the impact that “the environmentally preferable” rail line will have on Waipahu and, of course, everywhere else.

The following is an excerpt from our comments on the Final EIS, which is quite relevant to the above images.

“The environmentally preferable alternative”

“Above all what most puzzles us is how a noisy elevated rail line, 40 feet high and 30 feet wide, traversing the most historically sensitive part of Honolulu’s waterfront area, and thus opposed by every one of Hawaii’s environmental organizations, can be approved as “the alternative or alternatives which were considered to be environmentally preferable.” How can this happen?

“The following two statements in the Final EIS, taken together make a mockery of the NEPA process. The first statement is that,

“While the [rail] Project will be environmentally preferable regarding effects on air quality, energy use, and water quality, the No Build Alternative [and, logically, the Managed Lane Alternative] is the environmentally preferable alternative based on overall consideration of the criteria listed in 40 CFR 1505.2(b). The No Build Alternative [and the MLA] would affect fewer historic and cultural resources and waters of the U.S., have no visual impact, and cause no displacements. However, the No Build Alternative does not meet the Purpose and Need for the Project. [ FEIS, 4-3.]

The second statement is that,

“The purpose of the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project is to provide high capacity rapid transit in the highly congested east-west transportation corridor between Kapolei and UH Manoa, as specified in the ORTP (O‘ahuMPO 2007). [FEIS, 1-21].

“In short, although the No-Build Alternative (and, by inference, the Managed Lane Alternative) are “environmentally preferable” they are not eligible as they are not “rapid transit,” which FTA defines as heavy rail. So no matter how environmentally preferable a project, if it is not “rapid transit” it will not be preferable?

However, that is not consistent with [the National Environmental Policy Act] NEPA. To be,

“Consistent with NEPA, the purpose and need statement should be a statement of a transportation problem, not a specific solution. However, the purpose and need statement should be specific enough to generate alternatives that may potentially yield real solutions to the problem at-hand. A purpose and need statement that yields only one alternative may indicate a purpose and need that is too narrowly defined.”[23 CFR § 450.336].”

We will let FTA answer that one — if they can.





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