Federal Court Rules Against Black Warrior Riverkeeper Request for Preliminary Injunction to Block Construction of the Northern Beltline

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – This afternoon the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division ruled against the Black Warrior Riverkeeper (BWR) in BWR’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the start of construction for the Northern Beltline.

bwr-logo.jpgThe BWR had requested the injunction, claiming that the start of construction on a 1.8 mile segment of the Northern Beltline joining State Roads 79 and 75 violated the National Environmental Policy Act requirements and that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (CORPS) should have conducted an Environmental Impact Study for the entire 50.1 mile Northern Beltline project instead of only the first segment.

BWR sought the preliminary injunction against the Alabama Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Renee Carter, executive director of the Coalition for Regional Transportation, said, “This very strong order of the federal court reflects exactly what we have been saying about the need for the Northern Beltline for the past several years – that it is a necessary and justifiable transportation project that will tremendously benefit the people of this area.  We are both very pleased and gratified by the court’s order.”

The following are key portions of the ruling:

  • “The appropriate question is whether the SR 79/75 project serves a significant purpose if the other portions are not built… The evidence establishes that the SR 79/75 segment increases the utility of the existing roadway network by providing access between well-traveled highways.  Further, the SR 79/75 segment will relieve traffic on arterial and city streets.” 
  • “…the SR79/75 project satisfies NEPA regulations because it has independent utility, logical termini, and does not foreclose other alternatives for the overall project.  Moreover, requiring the Corps to prepare an EIS for each 404 permit would likely result in the project never being started at all and would be useless and redundant.” 
  • “…the public also has an interest in development that will promote job growth and economic stability, and Plaintiff does not establish a factual weight of harm to override the public interest in development. 
  • “…consideration must be given to the fact that substantial funds have already been expended to begin construction on the 1.86-mile project, including preparation for preliminary engineering, right-of-way acquisition, and utility relocation work.  Delaying construction would have significant financial impacts on Defendants and the public treasury, especially if the bid process has to be repeated.”