Isaac v. Commonwealth, NO. 2017-CA-001355-MR

CourtCourt of Appeals of Kentucky
Writing for the CourtCLAYTON, CHIEF JUDGE
PartiesTHOMAS D. ISAAC AND DON McCORMICK IN THEIR PERSONAL CAPACITY AND AS REPRESENTATIVES OF GROUP 151 APPELLANTS v. COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY; SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; KENTUCKY CABINET FOR TRANSPORTATION; KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS; REPUBLIC SERVICES OF KENTUCKY, LLC; BENSON VALLEY LANDFILL GENERAL PARTNERSHIP; R.C. CUTTS, INC.; AND CUTTS SPECIALIZED TRANSPORTATION, INC. APPELLEES
Decision Date19 July 2019
Docket NumberNO. 2017-CA-001355-MR

THOMAS D. ISAAC AND DON McCORMICK IN THEIR PERSONAL CAPACITY
AND AS REPRESENTATIVES OF GROUP 151 APPELLANTS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY; SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY;
KENTUCKY CABINET FOR TRANSPORTATION; KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS;
REPUBLIC SERVICES OF KENTUCKY, LLC; BENSON VALLEY LANDFILL GENERAL PARTNERSHIP;
R.C. CUTTS, INC.; AND CUTTS SPECIALIZED TRANSPORTATION, INC.
APPELLEES

NO. 2017-CA-001355-MR

Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals

JULY 19, 2019


NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

APPEAL FROM FRANKLIN CIRCUIT COURT
HONORABLE PHILLIP J. SHEPHERD, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 16-CI-00440

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OPINION
AFFIRMING

** ** ** ** **

BEFORE: CLAYTON, CHIEF JUDGE; JONES AND L. THOMPSON, JUDGES.

CLAYTON, CHIEF JUDGE: Thomas D. Isaac and Don McCormick, in their personal capacities and as representatives of 200 home owners and residents along Kentucky State Highway 151 (Group 151) appeal from a summary judgment granted by the Franklin Circuit Court to the Commonwealth of Kentucky; the Secretary of Transportation, in his official capacity; the Kentucky Cabinet for Transportation; the Kentucky Department of Highways; Republic Services of Kentucky LLC; Benson Valley Landfill General Partnership; R.C. Cutts, Inc.; and Cutts Specialized Transportation, Inc. Group 151 sought a declaratory judgment, temporary restraining order and permanent injunctive relief against the Cabinet regarding the authorization of heavy commercial motor vehicles along Highway 151 (KY 151). At issue is whether the circuit court correctly decided that Group 151 failed to exhaust its administrative remedies, and that the Cabinet has primary jurisdiction over the matter.

This case involves the interplay of federal and state statutes and regulations governing the travel of trucks and trailers on national roadways. At the federal level, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA), as amended by the Tandem Truck Safety Act of 1984, 49 United States Code (U.S.C.)

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§ 31111 et seq., establishes "uniform, national standards for the maximum size and weight of trucks and trailers used in interstate commerce." New Hampshire Motor Transport Ass'n v. Town of Plaistow, 67 F.3d 326, 329 (1st Cir. 1995). "This statute was originally enacted by Congress '[i]n order to eliminate problems caused by inconsistent state regulation of highway use.'" Keck v. Commonwealth ex rel. Golden, 998 S.W.2d 13, 16 (Ky. App. 1999) (quoting A.B.F. Freight System, Inc. v. Suthard, 681 F.Supp. 334, 337 (E.D. Va. 1988)). In furtherance of this goal, the STAA forbids states from enacting or enforcing laws that prohibit trucks and trailers of approved length and weight from travelling on the National Truck Network, the system of interstate highways and other federally funded primary routes designated by the Secretary of Transportation. Plaistow, 67 F.3d at 329. The STAA "also prohibits states from denying approved trucks and trailers 'reasonable access' between the national network and 'terminals.'" Id. (citing 49 U.S.C. § 31114).

Federal regulations provide for additions, deletions, exceptions and restrictions from the National Network. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) retains the authority to rule on requests for any of these and its "approval or disapproval will constitute the final decision of the U.S. Department of Transportation." 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 658.11.

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At the state level, regulations promulgated by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet establish the maximum dimensions for a motor vehicle or combination motor vehicle on Kentucky roadways. 603 Kentucky Administrative Regulations (KAR) 5:070 § 3. In accordance with the federal scheme discussed above, the regulations also provide that motor vehicles that exceed these dimensions may operate on roads designated to be part of the National Truck Network and in areas of access to the Network. 603 KAR 5:070 § 4(2).

KY 151 is a two-lane road stretching from Franklin County to Anderson County. It has been part of the National Truck Network under the STAA for over thirty-six years. It is classified by the Transportation Cabinet as an "[o]ther state primary highway." These are defined as routes "which are considered to be long distance, high volume intrastate routes that are of statewide significance. The routes have mobility as their prime function and are distinguished by high traffic-carrying capacity. These routes link major urban centers within the state and/or serve as major interregional corridors." 603 KAR 3:030 § 1 (1)(c). The portion of KY 151 at issue in this case runs between Lawrenceburg and Interstate 64 and is regularly used by heavy commercial vehicles.

On March 17, 2016, in response to local residents' concerns about commercial motor vehicle crashes on KY 151, the Acting Secretary of the

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Kentucky Transportation Cabinet contacted the FHWA, in accordance with 23 CFR § 658.11, requesting the emergency removal of the highway from the National Truck Network. The letter stated that KY 151 experienced single vehicle accidents involving large trucks and buses six times as often as US 127 (the alternate route) during the same time period, with half the accidents involving one vehicle running off the roadway. The letter also stated that the typical width of the lanes of KY 151 was only eleven feet and the shoulders from one to two feet, which the letter described as inadequate for larger vehicles like trucks and buses.

On April 25, 2016, Group 151 filed a complaint against the Commonwealth, the Secretary of the Transportation Cabinet, the Transportation Cabinet, and the Department of Public Highways, seeking declaratory judgment, a temporary restraining order and permanent injunctive relief. The complaint contended that Highway 151 is unsuitable for heavy commercial traffic such as trucks, trailers and semi-trailers, as evidenced by the numerous crashes occurring on the roadway as well as incidents involving trucks running off the road into private residences or spilling loads such as grain alcohol or gasoline onto private property adjacent to the roadway. Group 151 sought to remove the classification of KY 151 as an "[o]ther state primary highway" pursuant to 603 KAR 3:030 on the grounds it was arbitrary and unconstitutional, and also claimed KY 151 should

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not be excluded from classification as an exempted roadway under 603 KAR 5:070 § 7.

On April 26, 2016, the FHWA sent a reply to the Cabinet agreeing that Kentucky's request met the requirements to pursue an emergency deletion from the National Network of the relevant segment of KY 151. The letter also stated that "[a]lthough the approval of this emergency deletion enables the State to take immediate action to notify the public, establish signage reflecting the deletion, and enforce new requirements, this is not a final action. This emergency deletion will be published in the Federal Register to provide formal notice and offer an opportunity for the public to comment."

Upon receipt of this letter, the Cabinet...

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