Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe

United States Supreme Court401 U.S. 402 (1971)


The Secretary of Transportation (defendant) authorized the expenditure of federal funds for the construction of a six-lane interstate highway through a public park in Memphis, Tennessee. Private citizens and conservation organizations (plaintiffs) sought to halt construction, arguing that the Secretary violated portions of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968 that prohibit the use of federal funds to finance the construction of highways through public parks if a “feasible and prudent” alternative route exists. Under these statutes, where no such alternative route is available, the Secretary may only approve construction through parks if the plans are designed to minimize harm to the park. The Secretary did not include his factual findings in the announcements regarding approval of the highway’s route and design. The Secretary also did not indicate why no feasible and prudent alternative routes existed or why design changes could not be made to minimize harm to the park. The Secretary moved for summary judgment, which the District Court granted. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed, and the plaintiffs sought review in the United States Supreme Court.

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