Citizens group lauds parkway impact decision

November 3, 2002

By Hayes Hickman, News-Sentinel staff writer

A citizens group claimed a victory, and federal attorneys said they would have to decide whether to continue the fight after a U.S. District Court judge issued his latest ruling on the Pellissippi Parkway extension project.

For a second time, Judge Todd Campbell denied the Federal Highway Administration's request to voluntarily withdraw its finding of no significant impact for the planned project. Conversely, Campbell also reinforced an earlier court order requiring the FHWA to produce the administrative record for the project's environmental assessment, and he set a Nov. 20 deadline for turning over the documents. "I'm very pleased," said Joe McCaleb, attorney for the Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension.

Federal attorneys had contended that the documents in question should not be required since the FHWA voluntarily withdrew the earlier findings, which they previously agreed to produce.

"The federal defendants were aware of their obligation to file the administrative record by the Sept. 9, 2002, deadline and have ignored their duty to comply with the court order," Campbell wrote in the Friday ruling.

CAPPE members, who won a preliminary injunction against the federally funded TDOT project in July, considered the judge's decision another victory.

"We are pleased that the judge believed that the law applies to the Federal Highway Administration and the Tennessee Department of Transportation," said Nina Gregg, who serves on the CAPPE board of directors. "We hope we can now proceed (with the case.)"

Federal attorneys also filed a separate motion for a protective order in an attempt to shield the FHWA's finding of no significant impact from the plaintiff's scrutiny.

While Campbell has not specifically addressed the motion, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Roden said the latest ruling effectively renders the issue a moot point.

"We had hoped to convince him otherwise, but we didn't," Roden said. "We'll just have to discuss it with our clients and decide where we go from here whether we want to appeal or not."

TDOT's proposed 4.2-mile extension would run south from the parkway's current end at Old Knoxville Highway in Blount County to East Lamar Alexander Parkway.

The route would affect 42 homes and one business. CAPPE members argue the project would destroy a pristine rural area and is not needed.

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Hayes Hickman may be reached at 865-342-6323 or hickman@knews.com.

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Copyright 2002, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

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