by Max Brantley
The lawsuit asks that a judge order ALDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to take a "hard look" to all reasonable alternatives to the current project and conduct a new environmental assessment that includes a look at the economic impact it could have on Birmingham's recently revived downtown. The plan calls for construction of an elevated 10-lane highway – expanded from six lanes – and remove all but one exit, the lawsuit states.The environmental review process hasn't begun in Little Rock. History says such reviews are often shoddy in Arkansas. Lawyers will be watching.
The lawsuit also asks a judge to declare that ALDOT and FHWA violated National Environmental Policy Act by not looking at the potential economic impacts.
The Federal Highway Administration denied in its response the allegation that the I-59/20 Improvement Project will cause "significant negative socioeconomic impacts." They also deny that ALDOT ignored any issue or violated any law, or that the project's Environmental Assessment (the EA) was "defective."
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham by attorneys for Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin; Birmingham Board of Education President Randall Woodfin; James Clark, a UAB employee who owns residential and rental property within a mile of the project; four other residents; and Darrell O'Quinn, executive director of Move I 20/59 and president of the Birmingham Citizens Advisory Board.