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November 8, 2012

Injunction filed to stop bridges project fails

INDOT awards clearing contracts for east-end bridge

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — A preliminary injunction designed to halt the construction of the Ohio River Bridges Project was denied Wednesday.

Coalition for the Advancement of Reasonable Transportation Inc. — or CART — filed a motion for preliminary injunction to stop preparatory site work ongoing to construct an east-end bridge, downtown bridge and reconstruct Spaghetti Junction. The motion was denied by U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky Judge John G. Heyburn.

CART had moved for a preliminary injunction to keep the Federal Highway Administration and the respective states’ transportation organizations from starting on “preconstruciton activities.”

The injunction was filed after Indiana Department of Transportation had issued a notice for construction — clearing trees and land to prepare for road construction — along the east end corridor, according to the opinion filed Wednesday. It also explained that due to seasonal restrictions, tree clearing could only take place between dates in August and March.

INDOT Spokesman Will Wingfield said the plan is still for site clearing to begin in January. He added that both of the contracts to clear the paths for the Indiana and Kentucky approaches to the east-end bridge were awarded Wednesday.

To prepare Indiana’s approach Clarksville-based Dan Cristiani Excavating Inc. was awarded a $641,000 contract. For the Kentucky approach, Gohmann Construction was awarded the contract that totaled $856,000.

Wingfield said the contracts extend beyond tree clearing and include “clearing in general.”

Despite the clearing work that is planned, not all of the right-of-way that is included in the approaches on the east-end has been purchased. In Indiana, 25 of the 43 parcels have been purchased and in Kentucky 95 of the 106 parcels have been purchased, Wingfield said.

CART’s motion also argued that the bridges project violates the Endangered Species Act, violates the Federal Highway Act prohibition on federal participation in toll facilities, that the project will intentionally discriminate against racial minorities and threatens water and air quality in Louisville Metropolitan area.

However, the court said “to the extent that CART argues that they or others are irreparably damaged by defendants’ expenditure of taxpayer funds prior to a final judicial resolution, this is simply not a valid consideration at this time.”

Arguments offered that the “tolls are unlawful” were also countered in the order.

“Defendants have made a strong argument to the contrary,” according to the ruling. “They argue that the Federal Aid Highway Program permits federal participation in some toll roads, bridges, tunnels and ferries.”

The ruling offered Wednesday said many of the issues argued by CART will be addressed when the case is heard on all of its merits.

“The essence of a motion for preliminary injunction is that court action is necessary to avoid irreparable injury to a party or the public and preserve the status quo,” according to the ruling. “Here, the court concludes that immediate court action is unnecessary for any of these reasons. INDOT’s preliminary construction activities do not substantially alter the project’s status; they do not irreparably damage the property or legal rights of any party, particularly CART’s.”

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