Hawaii's Light Rail Close to Breaking Ground

After decades of planning, a 20-mile light rail line in Honolulu is set to begin construction this March, despite persistent concerns over the project's cost.

"A 40-year battle to build a mass transit line appears to be nearing its end. Barring a court intervention, construction is to begin in March on a 20-mile rail line that will be elevated 40 feet in the air, barreling over farmland, commercial districts and parts of downtown Honolulu, and stretching from here to Waikiki.

The two-track line -a 30-foot-wide span, with 21 elevated stations - is designed to accommodate an increasing crush of commuters and tourists while encouraging new growth and development, particularly on this undeveloped part of the island. The Honolulu rail project, scheduled for completion in 2018, seems certain to change sharply the nature of much of the south side of the island, as well as downtown Honolulu.

The project has drawn fierce opposition from many environmentalists and some community leaders, who describe it as a concrete gash across green Oahu that will blight pristine coastlines and farmland at the western end and throw a shadow over city streets in Honolulu. It could still be delayed or frozen by a pending suit in federal court from opponents who assert that planners failed to properly explore alternatives to the project in environmental studies."

The light rail is coming on line at a time when traffic and growth are increasingly noticeable in this once-small town. But despite the growing need for new transportation options, some are still opposed to the project's $5.3 billion cost.

Thanks to Nate Berg

Full Story: After 40-Year Battle, Train May Roll for Oahu

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