Neighborhood groups challenging the $631.7 million Interstate 30 project through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock dropped their demand for an immediate halt to the undertaking after the defendants convinced them construction wasn't imminent.
The neighborhood groups filed a motion for a preliminary injunction July 3 to halt any work lest it "influence or prejudice" alternatives to the project pending a final hearing on the case.
But on Thursday, they joined with the Federal Highway Administration, Arkansas Department of Transportation and other defendants in seeking to withdraw the motion.
"The parties have conferred, and defendants have represented to the plaintiffs that the beginning of construction activities on the project is not imminent," the motion filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock said. "Based on that representation and in the interests of efficiency, plaintiffs withdraw their motion for preliminary injunction without prejudice."
In an email, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, Richard Mays of Little Rock, said construction wasn't expected to begin until the middle of next year.
In Thursday's filings, state and federal highway officials also agreed to give Mays 45 days' notice before any construction activities begin. The filings were jointly submitted by Mays and an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Christopher M. Chellis, who represents the Federal Highway Administration.
"That would give us time to refile the motion for preliminary injunction and get a hearing on an injunction before construction starts," Mays said in the email.
The neighborhood coalition filed suit in May, alleging that the environmental review supporting the project to remake the 6.7-mile corridor between Interstate 530 in Little Rock and Interstate 40 in North Little Rock was so flawed that the project should be scrapped until a more rigorous review that meets federal requirements is performed.
The lawsuit identifies what its backers see as shortcomings in the project's environmental-assessment, a review that falls short of a more intensive and costly environmental impact statement. In giving the project the green light in March, the head of the Federal Highway Administration's Arkansas division, Angel Correa, who is named as a defendant, said the environmental-impact statement was unnecessary.
The plaintiffs include the Little Rock Downtown Neighborhood Association and the Pettaway Neighborhood Association, the Hanger Hill Neighborhood Association, as well as their umbrella organization, the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods, whose longtime president, Kathy Wells, is among the individual plaintiffs.
A joint venture selected by the Transportation Department to complete the project pegged the entire cost at slightly less than $1 billion. The joint venture is working with state transportation officials to decide what can be built now as part of what is now a first phase.
The project includes widening the section to 10 lanes from six and replacing the Arkansas River bridge. The undertaking also includes the section of I-40 between I-30 and U.S. 67/167 in North Little Rock.
Under a revised project scope, the bridge will be replaced, while work to eliminate the traffic weaving on the I-40 section and a new interchange south of the bridge in Little Rock also remain top priorities. Unlikely to be a part of the first phase is widening a section of I-30 between I-40 and the bridge
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr.
Metro on 07/12/2019
Print Headline: Assured I-30 job delayed, foes pull request for halt