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South Trenton Residents Against 29 v. Federal Highway Admin.

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 21229
Nos. No. 98-5226, 176 F.3d 658/(3d Cir., 05/05/1999)

The court holds that the Federal Highway Administration's (FHwA's) and a state transportation agency's decision not to complete a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) for a highway project in New Jersey was reasonable. Several years after a final EIS for the highway was completed, it was determined that in light of increased development, an alternative spur was necessary for the highway project. The state agency then performed an environmental reevaluation and found that the alternative spur would not significantly impact the environment and would have a lesser effect on the environment than the originally approved plan. Therefore, the FHwA and the state agency concluded that a supplemental EIS was not necessary for the alternative spur.

The court first holds that although several years have passed since the project's final EIS was approved in 1981, the environmental reevaluation and its determination that a supplemental EIS is not necessary was reasonable. It is clear from the record that the four-lane alternative would mitigate any environmental impact associated with the originally approved six-lane spur. Further, the state agency determined that the project would alleviate pedestrian and traffic safety problems in the area, and no evidence was offered to the contrary.

The court also holds that the highway spur project is exempt from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act's (ISTEA's) congestion management and major investment study requirements under the Act's grandfather provision. Final approval for the entire highway project was granted in 1981, approximately 11 years before ISTEA became effective. The highway project advanced beyond the environmental process when the final EIS was approved and the proposed project began, even if construction extended beyond the effective date of ISTEA and modifications have been made to the originally approved plan.

Counsel for Appellants
Ann Alexander
Rutgers University School of Law
Environmental Law Clinic
15 Washington St., Rm. 334, Newark NJ 07102
(201) 648-5695

Counsel for Appellees
Susan C. Cassell
U.S. Attorney's Office
Federal Bldg.
970 Broad St., 7th Fl., Newark NJ 07102
(973) 645-2700

Before Stapleton and Goldberg,* JJ.