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Alexandria, City of v. Slater

Citation: 29 ELR 21307
No. No. 98-0251(SS), 46 F. Supp. 2d 35/(D.D.C., 04/13/1999)

The court holds that the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT's) approval of a 12-lane bridge to replace an existing 6-lane bridge in Alexandria, Virginia, violated the Clean Air Act (CAA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and the Department of Transportation Act (DOTA). The court first holds that the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) must perform a conformity analysis under the CAA for a 12-lane bridge with no tolls. The statute and regulations state that a conformity analyses must be complete prior to the approval, adoption, or implementation of a project. The FHwA's conformity analysis for a 10-lane bridge with tolls therefore was inadequate. Moreover, the FHwA must consider the number and location of interchanges in analyzing the project's impact on regional air quality before project approval.

The court next holds that the FHwA violated NEPA by failing to give adequate consideration to the 10-lane alternative in its final environmental impact statements. Agencies must rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives before selecting a specific project. Moreover, it is unreasonable to disregard alternatives merely because they do not offer a complete solution to the problem.

The court also holds that the FHwA violated NEPA in failing to take the requisite "hard look" at the immediate and long-term impacts associated with the project's construction. The FHwA's discussion of construction impacts is of such a broad and generic nature that it could apply to practically any construction project undertaken by the agency.

The court additionally holds that the FHwA violatedboth the NHPA and the DOTA. The FHwA failed to take sufficient steps to identify historic resources that would be affected by the project.

Counsel for Plaintiff
John N. Hanson
Beveridge & Diamond
1350 I St. NW, Ste. 700, Washington DC 20005
(202) 789-6000

Counsel for Defendants
Daniel F. Van Horn
U.S. Attorney's Office
5806 Judiciary Center Bldg.
555 4th St. NW, Washington DC 20001
(202) 514-7566