Ky. group asks judge to send bridges suit to trial

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Associated Press

Posted on January 9, 2013 at 2:01 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A public transportation advocacy group has asked a federal judge to allow its lawsuit over Kentucky and Indiana's $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges plan to proceed to trial.

The Louisville, Ky.-based Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation filed the motion Monday in federal court in Louisville, days after two other plaintiffs agreed to drop their portions of the suit.

The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported (http://cjky.it/UJYoe6 ) Wednesday that the coalition is taking issue with reports that the settlement with those two plaintiffs removed serious obstacles to the projects. The coalition said in a statement that there are serious "issues still remaining to be litigated."

The coalition said it wants a trial on claims that Kentucky and Indiana broke the U.S. Civil Rights Act by discriminating against minorities, in part because the project would create tolls on two new bridges and a third span set for an upgrade. It says the two states adopted an "unreasonable tolling plan that would disproportionately burden poor minorities for 46 years or more."

The coalition also alleges that officials used a narrow set of criteria to justify the project — an approach that removed public transit options from a list of alternatives.

Kentucky and Indiana announced Friday that they had reached an agreement with two opponents of the bridges to settle their portions of the federal lawsuit.

That settlement calls for the Louisville-based conservation group River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation of Washington, D.C., to dismiss their portions of the suit in return for commitments on historic preservation and public involvement.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II dismissed the River Fields and National Trust actions Tuesday. He has not ruled on the coalition's request.

The Indiana Department of Transportation declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending.

Chuck Wolfe, a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman, said the cabinet "has gone to great lengths to ensure the law was complied with." He added that the cabinet believes the coalition's motion "is without merit and will oppose it with a formal response."

The bridges project includes construction of a new bridge across the Ohio River between Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind., and upgrades to an adjacent, existing bridge. A new bridge also will be built between Prospect, Ky., and Utica, Ind.

Motorists will pay tolls to use all three of the spans after they're completed.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com

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