Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wisconsin Ruling: Salem River Crossing's Traffic Projections also in Jeopardy? - Updated

A very interesting Federal case in Wisconsin has been making the rounds. A reader commented on the FHWA note yesterday and others have sent the news by email.

1000 Friends of Wisconsin filed a suit over outlandish traffic projections, and a Federal Judge agreed!

1000 Friends of Wisconsin v. USDOT et. al.

Vacate that approval!
From the Judge:
As noted, the plaintiff is skeptical that traffic volumes on Highway 23 will increase by as much as WisDOT has projected during the next 20 years. The plaintiff points out that traffic volumes peaked in about 2005 and have been declining ever since. The plaintiff contends that there are reasons to believe that this trend in declining traffic volumes will continue well into the future....

The plaintiff [also] contends that the defendants did not account for or address the environmental impacts of “induced travel.”....

[In conclusion] I identified two deficiencies in the defendants’ consideration of reasonable alternatives: (1) the defendants have not sufficiently disclosed how they applied their traffic-forecasting methodology to arrive at the traffic projections that they used in the impact statement, and thus neither the court nor members of the public are able to intelligently assess whether those projections are flawed; and (2) the defendants have not shown that they made a reasoned decision as to whether the updated population data from the Department of Administration required reconsideration of the traffic projections. These are significant deficiencies....

If it is true that the defendants’ projection of traffic volumes is flawed, then one of the key rationales for expanding the highway to four lanes will be undermined. If accurate projections are used, it may turn out that an alternative to full-blown expansion, such as installing passing lanes in certain areas and making other targeted improvements, would satisfy enough of the project’s purpose and need to be feasible. And because such an alternative would have fewer adverse environmental impacts than full-blown expansion, NEPA requires that it be fully explored before the defendants irrevocably commit themselves to expanding Highway 23 to four lanes.
It is not difficult to see how this might be relevant here.

Update, May 2nd, 2016

From the decision, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin v. USDOT:
I cannot find that WisDOT, when deciding whether to update its traffic forecasts in light of the updated population data, “conducted a reasoned evaluation of the relevant information and reached a decision that, although perhaps disputable, was not ‘arbitrary or capricious.’” Marsh , 490 U.S. at 385.

III. CONCLUSION For the reasons stated, IT IS ORDERED that the defendants’ motion to reinstate the record of decision and enter judgment in their favor is DENIED . IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the defendants’ motion to strike is DENIED .
More at 1000 Friends:
Federal District Court Judge Lynn Adelman has rejected the Wisconsin DOT arguments that its traffic projections for increased traffic on Highway 23 are accurate. This means the project is not eligible for federal funding – effectively killing the project.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Updated with new decision. 1000 Friends prevails and claim this kills the project.)