Merritt Parkway Conservancy v. Mineta

424 F. Supp. 2d 396 (2006)

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Merritt Parkway Conservancy v. Mineta

United States District Court for the District of Connecticut
424 F. Supp. 2d 396 (2006)

Facts

Merritt Parkway Conservancy (Conservancy) (plaintiff) and others filed a petition to challenge a highway construction project approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other state and federal agencies (Agencies) (defendants) that was intended to enlarge and improve traffic flow at an interchange along the scenic highway known as Merritt Parkway on the grounds that the Agencies had violated Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. Merritt Parkway included several historic features that would be affected by the project, and its designation on the National Register of Historic Places brought it under the protection of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). In the mid-1990s, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) commissioned both an engineering report to assess modification to Merritt Parkway and a series of guidelines for preservation of the Parkway’s unique features. The engineering report pre-dated the guidelines and did not include assessment of the project’s impact on the Parkway’s historic features. ConnDOT and the FHWA released three documents between 1998 and 2000 pursuant to Section 4(f) and the NHPA: a draft Environmental Assessment (EA), an NHPA Section 106 report, and a final EA. Each of the documents acknowledged that the project would impact some of Merritt Parkway’s historic features, but none provided assessment of options or efforts to minimize or mitigate the harm. Additionally, nothing in the record reflected any attempt by ConnDOT to comply with its own preservation guidelines, despite having agreed to do so in a Memorandum of Understanding it entered with the state historic preservation officer in 1999. Nonetheless, FHWA approved the project, and construction began in 2005. The Conservancy filed its petition and moved for summary judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kravitz, J.)

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