National Wildlife Federation v. Goldschmidt, Civ. A. No. H 80-47.

Decision Date19 November 1980
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. H 80-47.
Citation504 F. Supp. 314
PartiesNATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION; Eastern Connecticut Citizens Action Group, Inc.; Stop I-84, Inc., of Rhode Island; Connecticut Committee of Correspondence, Inc.; Connecticut Fund For the Environment, Inc.; Connecticut Wildlife Federation; Save Our State Committee, Inc.; and Sierra Club v. Neil GOLDSCHMIDT, Secretary of Transportation; Robert E. Kirby, Regional Federal Highway Administrator, Region 1; Donato J. Altobelli, Division Administration for Connecticut, Federal Highway Administration; and Arthur B. Powers, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Transportation.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut

David G. Burwell, Washington, D. C., Haynes N. Johnson, Parmalee, Johnson, Bollinger & Bramblett, Stamford, Conn., Daniel Millstone, New Haven, Conn., Arlene Violet, Providence, R. I., for plaintiffs.

Frank H. Santoro, Asst. U. S. Atty., Richard Blumenthal, U. S. Atty., for the District of Connecticut, New Haven, Conn., Ezra D. Rosenberg, Atty., Land and Natural Resources Division, U. S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., for defendants Neil Goldschmidt, Robert E. Kirby and Donato J. Altobelli.

Kenneth N. Tedford, Susan T. Pearlman, Asst. Attys. Gen., Carl R. Ajello, Atty. Gen. of the State of Connecticut, Wethersfield, Conn., for defendant Arthur B. Powers.

Thomas C. Clark, Grant H. Miller, Jr., Clark, Mayo & Gilligan, Hartford, Conn., for amicus curiae I-84 Yes, Inc.


JOSE A. CABRANES, District Judge:


At issue in this case are the plans of the United States Department of Transportation ("DOT") for three segments of Interstate Route 84 ("I-84") east of Hartford, Connecticut. The three proposed segments of I-84 which the plaintiffs challenge here are part of a plan to extend I-84 from its present terminus in East Hartford, Connecticut, to Providence, Rhode Island.

On January 28, 1980, the plaintiffs, each of which is an organization or corporation interested in environmental issues affecting Eastern Connecticut or Rhode Island, filed this action. They seek judicial review of a decision by defendant Robert E. Kirby, Regional Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration ("FHWA")—which was modified, on August 18, 1980, by Kirby's superior, defendant Neil Goldschmidt, Secretary of Transportation—(a) authorizing the design and construction of a 1.4-mile segment of I-84 (the "I-84/I-86 Connector") in the eastern suburbs of Hartford; and (b) conditionally approving only design work, but not land acquisition or construction, for two longer segments of I-84 ("Section I" and "Section II") in Eastern Connecticut, to a point near the Connecticut-Rhode Island border. According to the plaintiffs, this decision—as modified by Secretary Goldschmidt, who added to the conditions of the approval of design work for Sections I and II—violated the requirements of the Federal-Aid Highway Act, 23 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq., and the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA") that agency actions not be "arbitrary and capricious," "abuses of discretion," or "otherwise not in accordance with law." 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). The plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment on three of their five claims.

Three of the defendants in this action (Goldschmidt, Kirby and Donato J. Altobelli, the FHWA Division Administrator for Connecticut) are federal officials responsible for decisions relating to the proposal to extend I-84 eastward from East Hartford to Providence; the other defendant is Arthur B. Powers, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.1 The defendants have filed affidavits and briefs in opposition to the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, and have cross-moved for summary judgment. The defendants argue that: (a) the plaintiffs' contentions with respect to the short I-84/I-86 Connector are without merit; and (b) with regard to the plans for Sections I and II in Eastern Connecticut, the plaintiffs' claims are not ripe for adjudication, since no final decision authorizing land acquisition or construction has yet been made.

The court holds, for the reasons discussed at length below, that the federal defendants have indeed not yet taken any action as to Sections I and II which is sufficiently "final" to be reviewed by this court. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' arguments about the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statements ("EIS's") prepared for these proposed segments of I-84 are not yet ripe for judicial determination. The court therefore denies the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment insofar as it applies to Sections I and II, and grants the defendants' motions for summary judgment with respect to those two segments of the highway.

The questions concerning the I-84/I-86 Connector are in a somewhat different posture: although unquestionably ripe for judicial review (in that a final decision authorizing construction has been made), the controversy over this segment of I-84 has not yet been fully briefed by counsel. Thus, as requested by the federal defendants, the court defers ruling on the issues raised concerning the I-84/I-86 Connector pending the filing of additional papers according to a schedule set forth below.

A. The Origin of the Proposal for the Extension of I-84

Congress established a 41,000-mile National System of Defense and Interstate Highways (the "Interstate System") in 1958, in part "to connect by routes, as direct as practicable, the principal metropolitan areas, cities, and industrial centers ...." 23 U.S.C. § 103(e)(1). The original plans for the Interstate System included no link between Hartford and Providence; I-84 was to terminate at its junction with Interstate Route 291 in East Hartford, just across the Connecticut River from downtown Hartford.2

In 1968, Congress authorized the addition of 1,500 miles to the Interstate System.3 Connecticut and Rhode Island jointly petitioned DOT that year for approval of a 65-mile extension of I-84, from East Hartford to Providence, in order to connect the principal metropolitan areas of the respective states.4

On December 13, 1968, DOT approved the addition of the East Hartford-Providence portion of I-84 to the Interstate System.5 In 1970, NEPA became law; this federal statute required the preparation of EIS's for the proposed I-84 extension to Providence, with the exception of two segments in Connecticut which were already under construction when NEPA became effective, on January 1, 1970.6 These segments, which have been completed and are now carrying traffic, are:7

(1) A. 7.1 mile portion of I-84, with termini at Spencer Street, Manchester (slightly to the east of the former terminus of I-84 in East Hartford) and Bolton Notch, Bolton.
(2) A 4.9 mile segment in Windham, in Eastern Connecticut. This portion of I-84, which skirts the city of Willimantic, runs from the Coventry-Windham town line to Route 6 in Windham; it is known as the "Willimantic Bypass."

EIS's were required for the four proposed segments of the I-84 extension which were not under construction in 1970 (and on which no construction has taken place). As originally planned, these proposed segments were, from west to east:8

(1) The I-84/I-86 Connector. This segment includes widening 3.5 miles of existing highway and constructing 1.4 miles of new highway, in the Towns of East Hartford and Manchester. The I-84/I-86 Connector would run from Forbes Street, East Hartford to Spencer Street, Manchester (where the 7.1 mile Manchester-Bolton segment, already built, commences) and would link I-84 with Interstate Route 86 ("I-86"), which carries traffic in the direction of Boston.
(2) Section I. This 12.6 mile segment would link Bolton (where the 7.1 mile Manchester-Bolton segment, now in use, terminates) with Windham (where the Willimantic Bypass, also already in use, begins).
(3) Section II. This segment would run from Route 6 in Windham, the terminus of the existing Willimantic Bypass, to the Connecticut-Rhode Island border at Killingly, Connecticut. It would cover a distance of 17.8 miles.
(4) The Rhode Island Segment. This 19.3-mile long segment would run from the state line to Interstate Route 295 in Providence. According to the plaintiffs, the route originally proposed for the Rhode Island Segment was almost entirely within the Scituate Reservoir, the primary source of high quality drinking water for the majority of Rhode Islanders.9

Plans for the four proposed segments of I-84 between East Hartford and Providence have not advanced through the administrative process at a uniform pace. The I-84/I-86 Connector was the subject of a draft EIS prepared in 1973, when it was contemplated that I-86 would be extended southwest of the I-84/I-86 interchange, from Manchester to Glastonbury. After those plans for I-86 were rescinded, a new draft EIS for the I-84/I-86 Connector was prepared in 1976. Hearings on the revised draft were held in Manchester and East Hartford in March 1977, and in 1978 the final EIS for the I-84/I-86 Connector was submitted, first to the FHWA Region 1 Office for its approval, and then to the FHWA's Washington headquarters for its approval, known as "prior concurrence," as required by 23 C.F.R. § 771.14(c).10

Draft EIS's were prepared for Sections I and II in Eastern Connecticut in 1972; these were the subjects of hearings held in 1972 and 1975 in the towns of Coventry, Brooklyn, Killingly, Scotland, Canterbury, Hampton, Plainfield, Windham and Bolton. The Final EIS for Section I was submitted to the FHWA regional office in December 1975; the corresponding document for Section II was submitted in January 1976. In 1978, these EIS's were sent to Washington for FHWA "prior concurrence."11

The Rhode Island Segment was the...

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