Clairton Sportsmen's Club v. PENN. TURNPIKE COM'N

Decision Date03 April 1995
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 94-1114.
Citation882 F. Supp. 455
PartiesThe CLAIRTON SPORTSMEN'S CLUB, a Pennsylvania corporation, Christopher A. Smith, an individual, 31st Ward Citizens Council, Inc., a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation, Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, Pasquale A. Capolupo, an individual, Richard Clark, an individual, Jefferson United Association, an unincorporated association, Plaintiffs, v. PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, Defendants, and Mon Valley/Fayette Expressway Association, an unincorporated association, Mon Valley Progress Council, Inc., a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, Greater Charleroi Industrial Development Corporation, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, Middle Monongahela Industrial Development Association, Inc., a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, Washington County Council on Economic Development, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, Monongahela Rotary Club, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce, an unincorporated association, Monessen Chamber of Commerce, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, California Chamber of Commerce, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, County of Washington, a political subdivision, City of Monongahela, a political subdivision, Township of Carroll, a political subdivision, Township of Fallowfield, a political subdivision, Borough of California, a political subdivision, Borough of Charleroi, a political subdivision, Borough of Donora, a political subdivision, Borough of Elco, a political subdivision, Borough of North Belle Vernon, a political subdivision, Borough of Stockdale, a political subdivision, Irey Construction, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, Jaycee Foods, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, Rischitelli Trucking, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, Corning Consumer Products, Inc., a New York corporation, Lee Supply Co., Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, and Peter J. Daley, an individual, Intervenor-Defendants, and Fayette County Expressway Completion Organization, Amicus Curiae.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania




Anthony P. Picadio, Picadio, McCall, Kane & Norton, Pittsburgh, PA, for plaintiffs.

Charles B. Gibbons, Michael J. Manzo, Klett, Lieber, Rooney & Schorling, Pittsburgh, PA, for Pennsylvania Turnpike Com'n.

Robert J. Shea, John M. Hrubovcak, Harrisburg, PA, for Pennsylvania Dept. of Transp. Michael C. Colville, U.S. Atty's. Office, Pittsburgh, PA, for Federal Highway Admin.

John M. Purcell, Davis & Davis, Uniontown, PA, for amicus curiae Fayette County Expressway Completion Organization.

Steve M. Nolan, Mollica Murray & Hogue, Pittsburgh, PA, for intervenor-defendants.


CINDRICH, District Judge.

This is an action for review of a decision to build a seventeen mile, $413 million limited access highway, from Interstate 70 to Route 51 near Large, Pennsylvania, a point short of the major metropolitan area in the region. The immediate issues raised by this decision concern vehicle traffic. Barely below the surface and directly connected to the traffic issues, however, are matters of economics, land development, employment, politics, regional influence, ecology, and sociology.

The parties and intervenors address both the traffic and non-traffic issues at length in their briefs. This is to be expected given their importance and the anticipated direct relationship between the highway and the fortunes of surrounding communities. Indeed, the obvious and intrinsic importance of these issues may make it difficult to accept that a court cannot influence related decision-making, and can exercise authority over such cases only under fairly narrow conditions. It is not that the Court considers these issues any less important. Rather, the law firmly recognizes that the elements that make up such decisionmaking are so diverse that they are consigned to officials and agencies with specialized knowledge, experience, resources, and mechanisms for broad public participation that a court does not possess. Thus, while a host of issues must be considered by the defendants ("Agencies") in deciding what form their transportation objectives will take, we review the Agencies' actions only to ensure that such issues are genuinely considered. We are not free to weigh the many competing interests underlying these issues. Having reviewed the Agencies' consideration of the issues in detail we conclude that their actions were consistent with governing law. Accordingly, plaintiffs' challenge to the Agencies' actions will be denied.


What is now known as the Mon/Fayette Transportation Project is a series of roads and prospective roads extending 65 miles from I-68 near Morgantown, West Virginia to the City of Pittsburgh. Southern portions of this project have been completed and are open for traffic. At issue here is the construction of the northern portion. ARBD 27 PO-2 to PO-3.1

At one time the northern portion was conceived of as a single road extending from I-70 to I-376, to be built in a single stage. In its present form in this litigation, this portion of the project has been divided. The roadway is now planned to span seventeen miles from I-70 near Speers, Pennsylvania to Route 51 near Large, Pennsylvania; it does not extend to I-376 or the City of Pittsburgh. It will lie west of the Monongahela River, in rough proximity to Mid-Mon Valley2 communities such as Donora, Charleroi, Monessen, and Monongahela. It will be a four lane, limited access toll road with interchanges near Charleroi, Monongahela, and Finleyville. It will be constructed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission ("Commission") and become part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike System. ARBD 27 at II-36 to II-43.

Plans for construction of a north-south highway serving the Mid-Mon Valley have existed for twenty-five years. ARBD 1 at 5. Lack of funding habitually prevented the highway from being built. The advent of toll revenues as a source of financing brought the project back to life in the mid-1980's. In 1985, the Pennsylvania legislature authorized the Commission to build, among other projects, a road from I-70 to I-376 that was permitted to become a toll road. 75 Pa.Cons. Stat.Ann. § 8912(1). The toll feature allowed then Governor Casey to propose the project for federal funding under the Surface Transportation and Relocation Assistance Act. That Act permitted federal funding of up to 35% of toll road projects, reversing the federal government's previous policy of funding only toll-free highways. 23 U.S.C. § 129(a) and (j). See ARBD 27 at ES-1.

With federal funding in place, construction planning proceeded. Until June 1992, studies of the northern portion of the Mon/Fayette Transportation Project were based on a road that stretched from I-70 to I-376. See ARBD 1 at 7; ARBD 3 at 1-6; ARBD 35 at 167.3 For example, an engineering study for the Commission issued in March 1992 evaluated the road from I-70 to I-376. ARBD 3. There is no question that the proposed transportation project was to be linked to the major metropolitan areas of Morgantown and Pittsburgh. See, e.g., ARBD 35 at 9. There likewise is no question that the entire Mon/Fayette Project, while ultimately intended to encompass a continuous road surface, was being planned and built in different stages at different times. See, e.g., ARBD 27 at PO-2; ARBD 1 at 7; ARBD 3 at 1-2; ARBD 35 at 177.

On June 29 and 30, 1992, more than sixty federal, state, and local officials participated in a conference4 to re-evaluate the transportation needs of the Morgantown-Pittsburgh corridor. The conferees concluded that:

reconsidering different project needs in the corridor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Morgantown, West Virginia showed differing needs for different sections, depending upon: variations in the surrounding areas; existing highway conditions; projections of future traffic demands; and known community and environmental constraints.
In order to design improvements to best meet these varying needs most effectively, the overall transportation improvements for the corridor were designated as individual projects, with individually determined alternatives and individually tailored environmental studies.

ARBD 27 at PO-5. Project construction and the accompanying environmental impact studies thus were to be divided into four geographical areas:

(1) I-68 to Uniontown, Pennsylvania;
(2) Uniontown to I-70;
(3) I-70 to Route 51; and
(4) Route 51 to Pittsburgh.

The Agencies outlined the perceived benefits to this approach, namely: greater responsiveness to local needs; independent scheduling of environmental review; and precision that is lost when impacts are assessed in project areas that are too large. ARBD 27 at PO-5.

Following the June 1992 conference the FHWA requested the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to become cooperating agencies in developing environmental impact statements ("EIS"). These agencies and others participated in regular coordination meetings to continue review of the project goals, suggest alternatives, and resolve problems related to the project. ARBD 27 at PO-12.

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement ("DEIS") was circulated in March 1993, and a public hearing held in May 1993. A Supplemental DEIS was issued in September 1993 to address an alternative route known as the Green Alignment running through Jefferson Borough, Allegheny County. ARBD 21 at 1. Another public hearing was held in October 1993 to provide and receive additional information about the project.

Based on the DEIS, Supplemental DEIS, agency comments and public comments, a two-volume Final Environmental Impact Statement ("FEIS") was prepared. ARBD 27 and 28. The FEIS identified the needs of the Mon Valley and the purposes of transportation improvements...

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