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U.S. Court Clears Way for Southeast Connector

Southeast Connector

While some Reno locals may not see the benefit of the Southeast Connector, another connection to Sparks and the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center from South Reno will greatly improve our future commute times.

Mark Krueger, Principal

Read the article by Anjeanette Damon online, click here.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied an injunction seeking to halt work on the Southeast Connector, a major north-south road that will connect Sparks to southeast Reno that is already under construction, Councilwoman Neoma Jardon said Monday.

A coalition of neighborhood activists, the Upper Southeast Communities Coalition, has sued in federal court to halt the project, contending the government had violated the Clean Water Act and failed to adequately examine the project’s environmental impact.

While a trial is pending in district court, the group had sought a preliminary injunction to halt work while the case worked its way through the court system. The district judge denied that request and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s decision not to suspend work on the project.

“Yet another court has affirmed the merits and sound environmental science behind the Southeast Connector,” said Jardon, chairwoman of the Regional Transportation Commission, which is building the roadway. “I look forward to the completion of this important infrastructure project.”

In its ruling Monday, the three-judge appeals court panel found the district court judge did not rely “on an erroneous legal premise, (make) clearly erroneous factual findings, or (abuse) its discretion in concluding the appellant failed to show a probability of success on the merits.”

The decision struck a severe blow to the lawsuit by opponents of the project. District Judge John Mendez found it unlikely the coalition would prevail on the merits of their case when he decided against issuing an injunction, casting significant doubt on the probability of success at trial. The coalition could proceed with a trial anyway, but by the time it was resolved the road would likely have been nearly completed.

“Our entire organization and all of our stakeholders and supporters are incredibly disappointed,” said Kim Rhodemyre, a founding member of the Upper Southeast Communities Coalition. “We are speaking with our attorneys right now to try and figure out what our next step is. We are still in discussions about that.”

Rhodemyre said the coalition remains concerned about who will be responsible for potential problems in the future. Although the RTC is building the road, the city of Reno will own it. In its lawsuit, the coalition argued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should have required a full Environmental Impact Statement to examine potential flooding and problems with mercury contaminated soil in the project area.

The RTC touts the Southeast Connector as a needed alternative to Interstate 580/U.S. 395 and other existing arterial roads for north-south travel across the Truckee Meadows. The project will prove particularly critical to avoid traffic congestion as the region grows, supporters said.

Construction on the Phase 2 of the project began in June. The $290 million project is slated to be finished in December 2017.

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