Environmental Groups Move for Summary Judgment in Suit Against Federal Highway Administration

Environmental groups recently filed for summary judgment, alleging that the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) failed to consider community impacts or less harmful alternatives prior to approving a $1.7 billion highway project, the Mid County Parkway (“MCP”), in Riverside County. The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley, and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society argue that the proposed project would have the highest impacts to residential relocations in an area dominated by minorities and Hispanic residents with high percentages of disadvantaged students.

The MCP is a 16-mile, six-lane freeway that would connect the I-215 in Perris with State Route 79 in San Jacinto. The opposition groups contend that the environmental review for the Project was carelessly performed by FHWA and violates provisions of the Department of Transportation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. They argue that the environmental analyses presented misleading information, include the Project’s size and route, which then created an inaccurate picture of how the MCP will affect the disadvantaged communities.

The environmental organizations also argue that FHWA ignored a reasonable range of alternatives including the incorporation of high occupancy vehicle lanes, different road alternatives, or combining upgrades with transit and instead used hypothetical future business and growth projections to justify its ultimate decision. On the other hand, FHWA maintains it explored a reasonable range alternatives and even scaled back the Project’s plans from an initial 32-mile project.

By moving for summary judgment, the environmental groups are asking the court to vacate the FHWA’s approval of the MCP.

For more information, the case is Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. Federal Highway Administration et al., case number 5:16-cv-00133, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California