Court delays U.S. 95

News AASHTO Journal August 13, 2004
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The Ninth U

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put a temporary halt to the widening of U.S. 95 through Las Vegas last week, siding with the Sierra Club in a suit against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The court directed that the FHWA do more environmental and alternative transportation studies before resuming the project.

The lawsuit, filed in April 2002, was rejected in March by U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pro. The environmental group appealed, however, and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted portions of the project, including the construction of additional lanes until after the completion of the appeal. Nevada DOT spokesman Scott Magruder said the work on a section of the interchange with 95, building sound walls and land grading, will continue.

Considered the most congested slice of highway in Nevada carrying some 200,000 vehicles per day, the five-mile widening of U.S. 95 through Las Vegas will expand the current six lanes to 10. Magruder said NDOT is supporting FHWA in contesting the court ruling. The Las Vegas Sun reported that briefings are due in mid-October and a hearing date will be scheduled afterward. A decision may be reached by December. The $370 million expansion project was scheduled for completion by the winter of 2006.

The Sierra Club had alleged the environmental impact study on the project didn't take into account health risks posed by particulate pollutants and that the FHWA approval was arbitrary and capricious. The suit further alleged the FHWA didn't fully explore transportation alternatives such as light rail.

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