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September 9, 2012

Groups amend suit to stop bridges project

River Fields, National Trust calling for construction of only downtown bridge

LOUISVILLE — Two groups opposed to the Ohio River Bridges Project amended their lawsuit this week, calling for the construction of only a downtown bridge between Jeffersonville and Louisville rather than a two-bridge plan.

River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation amended their complaint, originally filed in September 2009, against the Federal Highway Administration for failing to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Department of Transportation Act when it approved the revised record-of-decision in June.

They are seeking a declaratory judgment that project is invalid.

Federal Highway Administration approved the revised record-of-decision for the Ohio River Bridges Project following the acceptance of the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement, which was necessary because of the inclusion of tolling as a financing plan for the project and the amount of time that had passed since the previous record-of-decision was approved in 2003.

The revised record-of-decision allowed the states to move forward on a downsized project from the 2003 decision. The current plan is a $2.6 billion one to construct an east-end bridge, downtown bridge and reconstruct Spaghetti Junction.

Transportation planners from Kentucky and Indiana agreed to split the cost of the project with Indiana responsible for the construction of the east-end portion of the project and Kentucky constructing the downtown portion.

In seeking the declaratory judgment River Fields and the National Trust are asking for relief in the form of only completing the downtown portion of the project.

“The one-bridge alternative, consisting solely of the new downtown bridge and reconstruction of the Kennedy Interchange, is a reasonable, prudent and feasible alternative that would address the region’s current and projected cross-river mobility needs and would avoid and minimize the use of historic properties,” according to the amended complaint.

THE HISTORY

River Fields has long been opposed to the construction of an east-end bridge connecting Utica and Prospect, Ky. The conservancy group has claimed the east-end project will disproportionately affect the historical properties in the area and the Federal Highway Administration failed to evaluate environmental concerns and impact to the local community.

The amended complaint alleges the Federal Highway Administration and state transportation planners failed to adequately consider alternatives to the project and that they relied on “a flawed and misleading purpose and need statement based on flawed traffic assumptions taken from local land use plans.”

Based on the “reliance on misleading information” about the need for the eastern bridge the plaintiffs said the downtown bridge only was not considered and the approval of the plan approved under the record-of-decision was “arbitrary, capricious [and] an abuse of discretion.”

Transportation planners have long claimed the purpose and need statement for the project requires the two-bridge solution, both the east-end and downtown bridge.

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