In Key Ruling, Court Orders Study of Highway Expansion's Effect on Sprawl

A federal court has ruled that a proposed highway expansion said to be the largest single transportation project in Wisconsin history must consider regional impacts (on sprawl and transit-dependent populations) in its environmental analysis.

"It is just an interim ruling, but it is potentially an important one:  In a suit brought by inner-city, minority plaintiffs, the US District Court in Milwaukee has indicated that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) cannot enlarge a major urban freeway connection without further study of the project's impacts on transit-dependent populations and on regional suburban sprawl," reports Kaid Benfield. "For now, the case is headed to mediation; but the court's ruling on legal issues in the case, as articulated in an opinion signed by federal judge Lynn Adelman, is potentially significant to other highway-expansion controversies with similar circumstances."

"The court rejected the agencies’ argument that they need only study the impacts in the specific area where the highway expansion was taking place, finding that it would defeat the “action-forcing” intent of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) if a piecemeal approach to highway projects and analysis allowed cumulative regional impacts to escape scrutiny."

Full Story: Federal court says highway sponsors must first study transit, impacts on suburban sprawl

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