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Arlington County v. USDOT, FHA & VDOT

For those of you that don’t already know, Arlington County has filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Highway Administrator, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Secretary of the Virginia Department of Transportation. Apparently, the purpose of this complaint is to stall and possibly derail the HOV/HOT highway project in Northern Virginia which would add additional travel lanes along the I-95/I-395 corridor from Spotsylvania to the Pentagon. For decades, Arlington County has been tirelessly waging a war against suburban sprawl and the impacts of funneling more and more automobile traffic from outlying suburban counties through Arlington County.

 Among many other things, the complaint alleges that Federal Highway Administrator, the Secretary of VDOT, and the Secretary of the US DOT, personally and deliberately, unjustifiably defined the project so narrowly that it would be excluded from the comprehensive review and public scrutiny requirements of NEPA and the Clean Air Act. The complaint alleges that there is no defensible way that the Northern Section of the project could obtain a “Categorical Exclusion” allowing it to bypass the Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment processes which would require an in depth review and analysis of the environmental impact of the project.

The complaint also alleges that the defendants failed to adequately analyze the impact on Arlington’s communities that the significant increase in traffic volumes the project would generate. Arlington is particularly concerned about what Arlington considers some of its traditional and historic neighborhoods that are in proximity to the project.

Unexpectedly, however, the complaint also alleges that Secretary LaHood, Secretary Homer and Administrator Mendez deliberately, in their individual capacities, promoted this project to “…enable a financially-able, privileged class of suburban and rural, primarily Caucasian residents…” to the “…disparate impact of the Project on minority and low-income communities…” in Arlington. Ouch. Sounds like the gloves are off.