Judge to rule on release of records in Pellissippi Parkway case
by Joel Davis of The Daily Times Staff
A U.S. District Court judge must decide whether the Federal Highway Administration will still be required to produce records about the environmental assessment of the proposed Pellissippi Parkway extension.
Attorney Joe McCaleb on Friday asked Judge Todd Campbell to deny the FHWA's request for a protective order shielding the agency from having to produce the administrative record for use in the Citizens Against the Pellissippi Extension group lawsuit. The administrative record would include any agreements that have been made by the federal government and state of Tennessee regarding the highway.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Roden previously said that the FHWA's decision to withdraw the finding of no significant impact for the project is the basis for the request for a protective order. McCaleb said he does not believe the agency can withdraw the finding without court permission. ``That is just not the law in this country,'' he said. ``They cannot just unilaterally pick up their marbles and go home.'' That is for the judge to determine, Roden said. ``That's basically our disagreement,'' he said. ``(McCaleb) doesn't think we can. We think we can. The judge ought to decide.''
Attorneys for the FHWA asked Campbell to reconsider allowing the agency to withdraw the environmental assessment of the project for review after the judge denied a previous motion for voluntary remand on Oct. 1.
The environmental assessment is at the heart of the lawsuit, which the CAPPE filed June 7. CAPPE contends the environmental assessment is inadequate and fails to take into consideration such factors as air- and water-quality impacts, traffic congestion and the potential for urban sprawl.
The CAPPE lawsuit named Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner J. Bruce Saltsman Sr. as a defendant as well as U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and officials of the Federal Highway Administration. In response to the lawsuit, Campbell issued a preliminary injunction halting work on the extension July 17. Previously, the FHWA cut off federal aid for the project in response to the lawsuit. The suspension of federal funding for the project remains in place. The final leg of the extension project would take about 39 tracts of land, directly affecting 42 residents and one business. TDOT has chosen a 4.5-mile route for the proposed extension. The route follows a mostly southerly direction from where the parkway currently ends at Cusick Road to East Lamar Alexander Parkway close to Morning Star Baptist Church, 3412 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway.
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