A Lawsuit that aims to sop the expansion of Interstate 81 has a lot more to it than
just road construction, new parties to the suit say.
Earlier this month, seven groups joined the federal lawsuit against the Virginia Department Of Trannsportation and Federal Highway Administration.
The new organizations represent a range of interests working to protect historic sites, farms, battlefields, natural enviorments, and scenic landscapes members say.
"The scale of the issue is a regional issue," explains John Eckman, Of the Valley Conservation Council, A Staunton -based group that joined the suit. "Our organization has never been involved in litigation prior to this.... That tells you how important this issue is."
The other new parties - Including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Scenic Virginia, APVA Preservation Virginia, Virginia Organizing Project, Rockbridge Area Conservation Council and Sierra Club - join Shenandoah County Farmer Larry Allamong, the Shenandoah Valley Network, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Those Three plantiffs filed the lawsuit on Dec. 17 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.
The organizations want to prevent the Federal Highway Administration from allowing VDOT to move forward with the proposed expansion of Interstate-81 until the agencies have corrected what plantiffs call "the plan's fundamental flaws."
Since the suit was originally filed, VDOT has ended negotiations with a transportation consortium that has proposed a multi-lane additionto the Highway.
But other plans involving the construction of additional lanes are still being considered, along with more modest proposals like truck-climbing lanes and adding lanes only at key areas prone to congestion.
Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a statement that a multi lane expansion would bury importanthistoric and cultural resources and "lead to dramatically increased heavy traffic through the pristine landscape of the Shenandoah Valley."
Instead, he says the agencies could reopen the planning to find "less costly, less destructive alternatives to massive widening."
The plaintiffs suit says several of the VDOT proposals would allow widening of Interstate-81 to 8 to 12 lanes through out western Virginia.
VDOT officials have said some expansion is needed to decrease traffic congestion on the 325-mile stretch of interstate. The Federal Highway Administration approved the agency's plan in June.
The lawsuit says irreversible damage is sure to result: "VDOT's plan for Interstate-81 would destroy 7,400 acres of developed land; 1,062 acresof prime farmland; between 1,600 and 2,400 residences; 662 buisnesses; 1,238 acres of Civil War battlefields; 33 acres of wetlands; 361 acres of floodplains; 23 miles of streams; and 13 threatened and endangered species." - Daily News Record Harrisonburg, VA Monday, February 25 2008.
I don't understand why CWPT has not joined this lawsuit. I feel if VDOT wins other agencies might get the same idea.