Groups File Appeal in Ongoing Challenge of Monroe Bypass
Environmental groups filed an appeal in federal court today saying that last week’s ruling by a district court judge did not take into consideration important factors that are critical to their legal challenge of the Monroe Bypass. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the appeal on behalf of Clean Air Carolina, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and the Yadkin Riverkeeper to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
Read the appeal (pdf) here.
The groups maintain that the N.C. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration violated federal law by ignoring lower cost solutions to fixing U.S. 74 traffic congestion and by misleading the public about the true impacts of the bypass on air and water quality. The 20-mile bypass, including nine interchanges, would cost over $700 million, only about 40% of which would be covered by tolls.
“We are hopeful that this appellate review will consider key facts and yield a different finding about how the agencies’ flawed analysis supported their foregone conclusion to build the bypass,” said SELC senior attorney Chandra Taylor.
“It is not credible for NCDOT to claim virtually no difference in impacts to the environment between building a four-lane highway with nine interchanges, and not building it,” Taylor said. She added that courts across the country have ruled that transportation agencies, when evaluating alternatives to a proposed project, cannot include that project in the “no build” alternative.
The lower district court also failed to address the issue that NCDOT and FHWA violated federal law by not adequately considering upgrades to U.S. 74 as a reasonable alternative to the costly and environmentally destructive bypass. NCDOT’s own 2007 study, known as the Stantec study, showed that traffic congestion at all but one intersection could be sufficiently alleviated with upgrades costing only about $15 million.