Categories
Local News Politics

Federal Judge Allows Kentuckians for Progress to Intervene in River Fields Lawsuit

A federal judge has ruled that a group supporting the Ohio River Bridges Project can intervene in the lawsuit between the conservation group River Fields and the Federal Highway Administration.

In May, Kentuckians for Progress filed a request to join the suit against the federal government as co-defendants to challenge  River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who filed the suit two years ago.

Preservationists claim the federal agency couldn’t justify portions of the bridges project, relied on misleading information, failed to adequately consider potential  impacts and did not prepare an updated environmental report.

On September 12, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn III found that KFP has a “legitimate interest” in the case which could “be beneficial if this litigation would proceed beyond its current stage.” The ruling was made over strenuous objections by attorneys for the plaintiffs, who argued for the past four months that  Kentuckians for Progress had no legal interest in the matter.

Attorney Vic Maddox, who represents Kentuckians for Progress, says the ruling now gives them the rights and privileges of the other defendants to pursue a dismissal of the case.

“Now we will be able to participate presumably in the confidential mediation sessions and anything else that takes place in court,” he says. “With that Kentuckians for Progress has the right to pursue the remedies that any defendant would have, including a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which is something we intend to pursue.”

Categories
Local News Next Louisville Politics

Jones, Others Press River Fields To Drop Bridge Suit

The newly-formed group Kentuckians For Progress continues its public relations push to persuade the River Fields conservancy to drop is lawsuit that seeks to delay construction of an east end bridge.

River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed the federal suit two years ago, claiming the Federal Highway Administration did not follow federal law when it approved the Ohio River Bridges Project in 2003.

Today at the Galt House, members of Kentuckians For Progress, surrounded by about 100 business and civic leaders, held a press conference urging River Fields to drop the suit.

Among the speakers was Humana founder David Jones, KFP’s Rebecca Jackson, and construction business owner and union leader Larry Hujo (pictured), who called the suit a ruse by property owners in eastern Jefferson County to have the bridge built elsewhere.

“I’ve heard these same people that say, ‘if you build that bridge in the East End, you’re going to have a devastating impact on the river and its environs. Build it in Valley Station. Now, I’m not an environmentalist and a person who knows about plants and little animals and critters and stuff, but isn’t that the same river?” he said.

River Fields board chair Lee Cory says the suit is not preventing planners from moving forward with other elements of the project.

“There is no injunction in this situation, no injunction has ever been requested. They have been free to proceed with this project all along,” she said.

The lawsuit is in mediation and on hold pending completion of an environmental impact study.

Cory says River Fields supports a downtown bridge and a reconfigured Spaghetti Junction, but believes an east end bridge would offer no significant traffic or safety benefits.

Many members of River Fields supported Mayor Greg Fischer’s election campaign. A spokesman for Fischer says the mayor supports the efforts to end the lawsuit, but wasn’t sure if Fischer had talked with members of River Fields directly.

Categories
Local News

Jackson Says Kentuckians for Progress Supporters Come From Various Sides of Bridges Debate

The newest player in the conflict over the Ohio River Bridges Project is gaining support.

Kentuckians for Progress began earlier this year to stop the conservation group River Fields from blocking the construction of a bridge in eastern Jefferson County. The group, like several others, wants the east end bridge and a downtown bridge built. Other groups want only an eastern span or a staggered construction that begins with the east end bridge.

Kentuckians for Progress president and former Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson says KFP’s donors and supporters come from various sides of the debate.

“We have some people who are very interested in making sure the east end bridge gets built and the suit gets dropped so it can get built. We had some people giving to us, and when we made ourselves known, we started getting some funds in through the website,” she says.

The suit KFP is fighting was filed by River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It argues that the federal government did not properly justify the need for an east end bridge. KFP has filed to join the suit, which is stalled as new environmental impact studies are prepared on the bridges project. River Fields says the necessity of the east end bridge can be discussed in the requisite public forums during the environmental review.

Categories
Local News Politics

Update: Kentuckians for Progress Seeks to Join, Dismiss River Fields Suit Over Bridges Project

A recently-formed group that aims to move the Ohio River Bridges Project forward is seeking to join, then end a lawsuit between conservation group River Fields and the Federal Highway Administration.

Kentuckians for Progress filed a request today to join a suit against the government brought by River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. River Fields asserts that the federal government has not properly justified the case for a two bridge project, and the group would like to block an east end bridge from being built.

Kentuckians for Progress attorney Victor Maddox says as it stands, the case does not adequately represent all of views of the community.

“I’m not saying the federal government hasn’t been vigilant, but it necessarily has a different perspective. The officials that are representing the Federal Highway Administration don’t live in the community,” he says.

Categories
Local News

Kentuckians for Progress Seeks to Join, Dismiss River Fields Suit Over Bridges Project

A recently-formed group that aims to move the Ohio River Bridges Project forward is seeking to join, then end a lawsuit between conservation group River Fields and the Federal Highway Administration.

Kentuckians for Progress filed a request to join River Fields’ suit against the government today. River Fields asserts that the federal government has not properly justified the case for a two bridge project, and the group would like to block an east end bridge from being built.

Kentuckians for Progress attorney Victor Maddox says as it stands, the case does not adequately represent all of views of the community.

“I’m not saying the federal government hasn’t been vigilant, but it necessarily has a different perspective. The officials that are representing the Federal Highway Administration don’t live in the community,” he says.

Maddox says he’s not sure River Fields has proper standing to file the suit, and he could file a motion to dismiss the case if he’s allowed to join it. A statement from River Fields is forthcoming. The case is currently stalled as the federal government conducts new environmental impact studies on the bridges project.

Kentuckians for Progress is led by former Jefferson County Judge Executive Rebecca Jackson. Its membership includes union, business and development leaders.

Categories
Local News Next Louisville Politics

Group Launches Campaign Against River Fields

A new advocacy group called Kentuckians for Progress is launching what it calls an education campaign that’s critical of the River Fields conservancy.

The group claims that River Fields is employing legal tactics to kill construction of a new bridge in eastern
Jefferson County.

Kentuckians for Progress is headed by former Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson, who says River Fields is trying to litigate the project until it grows so burdensome for taxpayers that it cannot be completed.

Jackson’s group has launched a website and is running ads urging people to call River Fields and ask that it drop a federal lawsuit it filed against the project in 2009.

“We really want a groundswell in this community to show River Fields that we know what they’re doing. They are delaying, delaying, delaying, delaying and its time to stop delaying, drop the suit and let us progress and move forward,” she said.

That lawsuit, co-filed with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is currently in mediation.

River Fields board chair Lee Cory says the conservancy is being made a scapegoat for the failure of the project’s planners to find sufficient funding for it.

“The 2009 lawsuit has nothing to do with any of the delays in the project…to say that is the case is an effort on the part of whoever these people are to create the illusion that the project would be moving forward if River Fields wasn’t in the picture, and that is simply not the case,” she said.

River Fields has contended that a new downtown bridge would sufficiently ease traffic congestion, while an East End bridge would be environmentally destructive.

Full statement from River Fields’ Lee Cory:

This campaign is designed to make River Fields into a scapegoat for the failure of a project that is collapsing of its own weight. It is designed to intentionally delude the public into believing that the Bridges Project is moving forward. Right now River Fields or no River Fields, law suit or no law suit, there is not enough money to build this project. The law suit has nothing to do with delays in the project. The FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) is requiring the Supplemental Environmental Impact Study because the Governors of Kentucky and Indiana and the Mayor of Louisville suggested new plans.

A law suit filed in 2009 is nothing new. The parties, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation who is the lead plaintiff, and River Fields are in mediation.

Founded in 1959, River Fields is one of the oldest land conservation citizens groups in the country. With over 2,000 members from throughout the region, we have preserved 2,200 acres for the public forever, including Shelby Trails Park, a 400 acre park that opens next week. The claims on the website and in the newspaper ad are misleading. The reason the project is not moving forward is that there is not enough money.