Group loses bid
to halt transit project

The judge notes that the group raises
serious questions on Bus Rapid Transit

A federal judge has denied a temporary restraining order sought by a group opposing construction of the city's Bus Rapid Transit system.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Mollway said yesterday that the plaintiff, Sensible Traffic Alternatives and Resources Ltd., failed to show it would suffer "irreparable harm" if she allowed the city to begin accepting bids today for construction of the first segment.

But she said the group raised serious questions that go to the merits of their case, and she expects them to appear before the court several more times.

Mollway has scheduled a Feb. 17 hearing on the group's motion for preliminary injunction to halt construction.

The nonprofit group, made up of transportation companies and business leaders, sued the federal government last month to stop construction, alleging the city is violating federal and state environmental laws by evaluating pieces of the project one at a time rather than as a whole.

Mayor Jeremy Harris has said that the first segment, which will take hybrid gas and electric buses for a 5.6-mile stretch from downtown through Kakaako and end in Waikiki, will include sidewalk improvements, landscaping, underground utilities, bus stop upgrades and the addition of extra lanes on Ala Moana and Kalia Road.

The city is going ahead while the Federal Transit Administration has accepted only the first portion of the project and has given no guarantees it will approve the project in its entirety, said Kelly LaPorte, attorney for Sensible Traffic Alternatives.

LaPorte argued that irreparable harm is presumed for projects proceeding in any form that violate the Environmental Protection Act.

If the city begins accepting bids and awarding contracts, the rights of third parties will be involved, he said.

Gregory Swartz, city deputy corporation counsel, said the federal transportation agency has already accepted the city's environmental impact statement for the project but has only approved the initial operating segment.

Swartz also disputed that the project has changed from its initial proposal, as the plaintiffs contend.

Once bids are awarded, the earliest construction is expected to begin is in mid-February.


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