LA Judge OKs Plan for I-49 Connector, Rules Against Suit

Sat August 21, 2004 - West Edition

LAFAYETTE, LA (AP) A federal judge has ruled against a group of citizens trying to stop construction of a connector for Interstate 49 through Lafayette.

The proposed five-mile stretch of highway, which would have six elevated lanes, is part of the work required to extend Interstate 49 south from Lafayette to New Orleans.

A group known as the Concerned Citizens Coalition filed suit in April 2003 to block the project, saying the Federal Highway Administration violated federal law by planning the interstate too close to a historic district and park.

The group also said alternative routes were not considered.

On Aug. 10, U.S. District Judge Tucker Melancon said he could only rule on the administrative record of the Federal Highway Administration to determine if the agency’s interpretation of its own rules was reasonable. Melancon said the agency did nothing improper.

The head of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Rob Guidry, praised the ruling. The citizens’ group said it would appeal.

Proponents say the Interstate 49 extension, which is expected to take decades to build and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, is needed for economic development, hurricane evacuation and highway safety.