Louisville, Ky. — The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld dismissal of a lawsuit that sought to halt construction of the $2.3 billion Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project. The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel said an organization opposed to the project failed to raise a single factual issue to support its allegations that the project’s state partners — the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) — violated federal environmental and civil rights laws in carrying out the project.
On the contrary, the judges said, an administrative record of more than 150,000 pages contains ample evidence that the project has been carried forward in good faith.
“In sum, after sifting out plaintiff’s rhetoric, legal conclusions, and unsupported allegations, the record facts that remain – viewed collectively, and in a light most favorable to plaintiff – do not create a genuine issue of material fact” on whether the states violated federal law, the judges said.
“This ruling affirms the hard work of our project team,” said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock. “The law has been scrupulously followed as we have assessed and documented the effect of the Ohio River Bridges project on the environment and population of the Louisville and Southern Indiana area.”
The ruling came on Thursday, Aug. 7, in an appeal by the Coalition for Advancement of Regional Transportation (CART). The organization filed suit against KYTC, INDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), along with executives of each agency. In July 2013, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II, in Louisville, granted summary judgment to all the defendants and dismissed the lawsuit.
In its appeal, CART abandoned all claims against the federal defendants. It also abandoned claims of violations of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act against the state defendants. Remaining in CART’s appeal were claims that Kentucky and Indiana violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The appeals court said Judge Heyburn “properly rejected plaintiff’s numerous examples of ‘bad faith’ because the evidence offered could not support a finding that defendants engaged in misconduct during the NEPA process,” which lasted 14 years.
Kentucky and Indiana jointly are building the project to dramatically improve cross-river mobility between Louisville and Southern Indiana. The project has two parts:
Downtown Crossing – Includes construction of a new bridge for northbound Interstate 65, renovation and reconfiguration of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge to carry southbound I-65 and rebuilding of downtown interchanges in Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind. KYTC is in charge.
East End Crossing – Comprises a new bridge and approaches, eight miles upriver, to connect the Gene Snyder Freeway in Kentucky with the Lee Hamilton Highway in Southern Indiana. Indiana is responsible for securing design, financing and construction.