Friday, December 02, 2005

Second lawsuit filed challenging the construction of toll roads in Texas.

Lawsuit Seeks Immediate Halt to SA Toll Roads


Jim Forsyth

News 4 WOAI
San Antonio

A federal judge was asked today to order an immediate halt to the US 281 toll road construction project now underway in far north Bexar County, claiming it threatens endangered species and the Edwards Aquifer, and violates the National Environmental Protection Act, 1200 WOAI news reported today.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court today by Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, an environmental group, and People for Efficient Transportation, Inc, the parent organization of the anti toll Texas Toll Party. The Sierra Club and other environmental protection organizations are expected to join the lawsuit as intervenors.

The lawsuit claims the toll road on US 281, as well as other toll lanes proposed for Loop 1604, will 'greatly accelerate' damage to the Aquifer.

"The highway agencies are moving forward without taking any meaningful look at the implications of their actions," the lawsuit says. "Neither the original environmental assessment prepared in 1984 nor two subsequent reevaluations prepared in 2000 and 2004 provide adequate documentation. Most egregiously, and patently illegal, the agencies have utterly failed to ever consider any alternatives to the proposed massive toll road projects."

This is the second lawsuit to be filed challenging the construction of toll roads in Texas. A lawsuit filed in Austin in October seeks to declare the Regional Mobility Authorities, which are planning toll projects in San Antonio and Austin, declared unconstitutional.

"We will be seeking a preliminary injunction," Annalisa Peace, Executive Director of AGUA, told 1200 WOAI news. "We need to look at this project, and have public hearings, which will be part of the process, and that will include how any projects will affect the environment."

Peace said any new highway construction in the region would damage the aquifer.

"We know that runoff from highways includes benzene, and that would go right into the Aquifer," she said.

Brush clearing is already underway for construction of new, toll lanes between Loop 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway. Construction is set to begin early next year.

In addition to demanding an environmental impact statement, a process that could take years, the lawsuit demands that the courts retain oversight authority over any toll projects initiated in Bexar County.

"This project has taken off without any consideration of how such a massive development will impact our water supply," Peace said. "The people of San Antonio have twice voted to tax themselves to protect this region, and we aim to see that their implications of their actions." S

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