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Openlands v. United States Department of Transportation

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20119
Nos. 13 C 4950, (N.D. Ill., 06/16/2015) (Alonso, J.)

A district court held that the Federal Highway Administration's (FHwA's) record of decision (ROD) and EIS for a proposed tollroad project between Indiana and Illinois violated NEPA. The EIS stated that the purpose and need for the tollroad is to accommodate an anticipated population boom. The purpose and need statement is derived directly from a "no-build" analysis. The no-build analysis also served as the foundation for FHwA's projection of future traffic in the study area as well as its conclusion that the existing roadways cannot adequately serve future transportation needs. But the record is not clear as to whether the EIS actually contains a true no-build analysis. The no-build analysis, therefore, cannot support the EIS' stated purpose and need. In addition, absent a supported no-build analysis, the EIS does not comply with NEPA's directive to analyze the project's direct impacts. FHwA's approval of the ROD and final EIS, therefore, was arbitrary and capricious and in violation of NEPA. But the court dismissed the claim that FHwA violated §4(f) of the Transportation Act. The record shows that the §4(f) determination is not final. As such, it is not ripe for review.