Richard Mays, attorney for plaintiffs seeking a halt to the billion-dollar Interstate 30 concrete ditch widening through Little Rock, says the continuation of the hearing on his request for an injunction to stop work has been delayed until next Wednesday.
The hearing began Thursday but was recessed mid-arguments because of an emergency for one of the lawyers fighting the suit. The lawsuit says the state and federal highway agencies haven’t sufficiently considered the environmental damage the project will cause and seeks a full environmental impact statement as federal law requires. The state contends it’s done enough studying.
Up in the air is whether Judge James Moody will allow two witnesses Mays wants to call — an official of Metropolan and John Kirk, a UA Little Rock professor who can testify on the damaging impacts of the original I-30 and I-630 projects and the likely continuation of more of the same.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation is arguing if information these witnesses could provide wasn’t provided during a public comment period, it’s too late now. What? Mays can’t call expert witnesses?
The Highway Department has another particularly sneaky argument at play. Because it entered an unprecedented “design-build” combination contract on the project, it says it is tied to an agreement to pay overhead costs to contractors if work is halted. You can see the evil genius in this. String out the lawsuit long enough, which the state has already done, and the highway department can get the thing built and then say, well, TOO LATE! No matter how damaging it might be to air, water, neighborhoods, interlocking transportation and all the rest.
Moody has been agreeable to this disingenuous reasoning once before, in a failed effort to stop the I-630 widening project. It is already creating the predicted damaging induced demand on connecting roads, which the billion-dollar 30 Crossing boondoggle will produce in even greater amounts.
UPDATE: Moody apparently has agreed to take limited testimony from the two witnesses. Mays will argue that there’s clear precedent to allow expert testimony on failures in environmental reviews.