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Federal Judge James Moody Jr. today emailed the parties in the lawsuit over the widening of Interstate 630 to inform them that he was denying the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order to halt the project.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Richard Mays had sought the injunction, arguing that the Arkansas Department of Transportation project did not qualify for an exception to federal rules requiring an assessment of environmental impact.

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Moody gave as his reason the following:

After review of the evidence, particularly the testimony of Keli Wylie, Program Administrator of the Arkansas Department of Transportation’s Connecting Arkansas Program, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to establish that any part of the I-630 project construction would go outside of the existing operational right-of-way. Further, Plaintiffs failed to establish that the project would have a significant environmental impact in light of the air quality standards in the area generally. For this reason and others cited at the hearing on this issue, Plaintiffs have not shown a substantial probability of success in establishing that the Defendants’ decision to classify the I-630 project as a Categorical Exclusion was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise in violation of the law.

The Court further finds that there will be little, if any, irreparable harm to the Plaintiffs or the public by allowing the I-630 project to continue while the litigation of the case proceeds. Plaintiffs’ evidence regarding irreparable harm focused on air quality caused by the increased traffic on I-630 following the completion of the project. Therefore the request for injunctive relief is denied.

ARDOT is widening I-630 from Baptist Hospital to University Avenue, a 2.5-mile stretch, to eight lanes. The project, which will cost an estimated $87.3 million, will require the removal and rebuilding of three bridges over the interstate.

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Moody said the denial “was not meant as an official order in the case.” That will come later.

Mays said attorneys would review evidence submitted and legal arguments to determine whether an appeal would be worthwhile. Meanwhile, he noted that he and others are working on responses to the drafter environmental assessment on the much larger and more damaging 30 Crossing project to widen I-30 through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

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