HONOLULU (AP) - After a $5 billion project to expand Honolulu rail was stopped by court order, the project is closer to being restarted now that the archaeological survey looking for historic human remains along the proposed corridor is complete.
The state Supreme Court ordered the project stopped so that the archaeological survey could be done to check for Native Hawaiian burials and other artifacts along the proposed rail corridor. The 20-mile rail line is being built to connect Honolulu's western suburbs with the city center. Since 2009, surveyors have dug more than 400 trenches along the route, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Hawaii has a stringent state law protecting graves. If a construction project encounters bones, work must stop in the immediate area and authorities must be notified.
Officials report that the work uncovered seven human remains, including two that were deemed full burials. One was at Halekauwila and Keawe streets, and the other at Punchbowl Street near Pohukaina Street.
Dan Grabauskas, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation's executive director and CEO, said the agency now knows what it is dealing with and can make any necessary design changes before proceeding with construction in the urban Honolulu area.
"Assuming that we leave all these in place as burials and treat them that way," there would be no impact on the rail route or cost, Grabauskas said Thursday at a joint meeting of HART's Finance and Project Oversight committees.
HART had started construction on the transit project in its West Oahu sections, where surveying had been completed. However, Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. sued the city in 2011 and challenged its decision to conduct the survey in phases.
Last August, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the entire archaeological inventory survey had to be done before building could proceed. HART expects to resume construction on the rail project in September.