Judge orders Highway Administration to produce environmental document

11-5-2002

by Joel Davis of The Daily Times Staff

The Federal Highway Administration has until Nov. 20 to file records about the controversial Pellissippi Parkway extension with the U.S. District Court in Nashville.

Judge Todd Campbell on Friday ordered the agency to produce documents regarding the environmental assessment for the project. ``I'm very pleased with his decision,'' said Joe McCaleb, attorney for the Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension group. ``It means that the federal government is going to have to produce the administrative record, which is something I've felt very strongly about from the beginning.''

The administrative record would include any agreements that have been made by the federal government and state of Tennessee regarding the highway. McCaleb will have to review the record before he decides on the next step to take in the lawsuit. ``We are waiting to get the record, which is due Nov. 20 before we make any further decisions,'' he said. ``The original scheduling order allows me 60 days from time I receive the administrative record to read it and take additional discovery if I want to. ``If nothing else interferes between now and then, it easily puts us into the new year. After that, I can make a decision on what I will do.''

Campbell's order contained a rebuke to the agency for not complying with an earlier deadline. ``The federal defendants were aware of their obligation to file the administrative record by the September 9, 2002, deadline and have ignored their duty to comply with the court order,'' Campbell wrote. ``The federal defendants could have moved to continue the deadline but chose not to do so. The federal defendants are reminded they do not get to pick and choose which orders they would like to follow.''

Campbell also denied a motion by FHWA attorneys to dismiss the lawsuit. CAPPE suit filed June 7 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. Federal money halted 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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All materials Copyright 2002 Horvitz Newspapers.