A federal judge has ruled that a project to build a 20-mile transit-rail system in Honolulu can move forward while the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) completes remaining studies in the city's downtown area as required by the court.
U.S. Ninth Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima's order temporarily prohibits construction in the project's final City Center phase, but Tashima did not rescind the Federal Transit Administration's approval for the city to work on the project's first three phases, HART officials said in a prepared statement.
The ruling puts construction on hold in the downtown area until the court-mandated studies are completed, including studies on a tunnel under Beretania Street and the project's impact on Mother Waldron Park and cultural sites along the route.
Downtown construction is not scheduled to begin until 2014, providing ample time to comply with the court's request, HART officials said.
The ruling allows the authority to complete the court-mandated work while still keeping the project on schedule, said HART Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Dan Grabauskas.
The city has halted project construction as a result of a separate legal case. A Hawaii Supreme Court decision issued in August 2012 determined that the State Historic Preservation Division can approve the rail project only after the city has completed archeological surveys on the entire 20-mile route. The survey should be completed this month and construction should resume later this year, HART officials said.
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