A federal court in Kansas has upheld a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) decision to locate a seven-mile, four-lane divided freeway along the southern edge of Lawrence, Kansas, to connect the existing K-10 Highway/US-59 Highway interchange to K-10 Highway. Prairie Band Pottawatomie Nation v. FHWA, No. 08-2534 (D. Kan. 11/5/10). Plaintiffs preferred an alternative route that the government had not considered and sued, alleging violations of NEPA, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Specifically, plaintiffs challenged FHWA’s record of decision under the Administrative Procedure Act and alleged that the agency violated NEPA by eliminating the alternative route without preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS).
The court disagreed with plaintiffs, ruling that FHWA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in choosing its preferred path for the bypass over the plaintiffs’ preferred route. According to the court, while it is true that FHWA did not prepare an EIS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) prepared an analysis of both routes, as well as 26 others, which analysis found that plaintiffs’ preferred route was not reasonable due to considerations of cost, safety and likely trafficpattern effects. FHWA used the Corps’s analysis as the basis for its decision, and the court found that this sufficiently supported FHWA’s decision not to prepare an EIS.