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OMOT Sues Feds Over EmX FONSI

Photo by Rob Sydor | robsydor.com

In objection to the planned West 11th EmX extension, perennial bus-rapid-transit-opponents Our Money Our Transit (OMOT) filed a lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) June 11, calling for the project to be halted pending further review. The suit claims that the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) that the FTA issued after reviewing the expected effects of the LTD project’s impact was improper, but LTD says that it thinks the FONSI will hold up in court, and there’s not much chance that the EmX extension will be delayed.

LTD spokesperson Andy Vobora says that there wasn’t much new information contained in the lawsuit, and LTD believes the FONSI was meticulous. While the EmX extension is still in the engineering phase, he says the project’s construction, expected to begin in 2015, probably won’t be held up by the lawsuit. The main effect he predicts from the suit is the resources that LTD will have to devote to documentation and materials. “We’ll obviously be spending a lot of local dollars and time by staff putting those documents together as part of the background information for the FTA legal staff to present their case,” he says.

“FTA’s FONSI is based on faulty and incomplete information that does not provide a clear and concise explanation of the agency’s decision-making process and ignores FTA’s duty to independently review and evaluate environmental documents,” the lawsuit alleges.

The document also states that the FONSI should have reviewed the selection of 6th and 7th avenues as connectors to West 11th. LTD’s preferred alternative was a connection via 13th Avenue, but City Council voted for the 6th/7th option after considering factors such as the need for economic development on the 6th/7th corridor and its better potential to connect with a future River Road corridor EmX route. “That’s one of the interesting parts about the challenge,” Vobora says. Early in the process, LTD was considering 58 different alternative routes. 

Local pro-EmX group Better Eugene-Springfield Transit (BEST) says it doesn’t have much to say about the lawsuit. “What we can say is that, regardless of the lawsuit, we are interested in making sure that West Eugene EmX is designed and constructed with as few negative impacts on businesses and residents as possible,” says BEST member Rob Zako. “We will be watching LTD and its consultants, and working with local businesses, to help make sure this is so. And we continue to believe that West Eugene EmX is a critical component of a better regional transit system that will help people get from where they live to where they work, shop, learn and play.”

A spokesperson for FTA says that the agency can’t comment on pending litigation.