Court Denies Request to Delay Construction on North Eufaula Avenue
Eufaula, AL—A district court has denied the motion for a temporary restraining order filed by historic preservation groups in order to delay the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) from moving forward with its proposed plan to widen North Eufaula Avenue.
On behalf of the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation, Eufaula Heritage Association, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed the motion for a temporary restraining order in response to ALDOT’s plans to break ground on the project in December.
“We hope to have the opportunity to explore other options that protect and enhance the scenic and historical beauty of Eufaula's signature street,” said Doug Purcell of the Save North Eufaula Avenue Coalition.
The court was sympathetic to the groups’ argument that Eufaula’s historic district should not be put in jeopardy, as well as the concern that the protections of federal law were not being applied in this case.
However, the court determined that any dispute over the widening project must be resolved at the local level between the State of Alabama and the City of Eufaula, and that “a State can choose to use state funds to improve a road, even if the reason is that the State has less regard for the environment in relation to development.”
“The judge agreed that we presented ‘a strong argument that this historic area should not be put in jeopardy,’” said Elizabeth Merritt, Deputy General Counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We support the City’s ongoing efforts to protect the iconic landscape and character of this unique historic district.”
The motion for a temporary restraining order was filed as part of the federal lawsuit brought by the groups and the City of Eufaula earlier this month charging that ALDOT’s failure to comply with required federal protections, which includes conducting studies on the project’s impacts and implementing less destructive alternatives, will result in irreparable harm to Eufaula’s tree-lined historic district.
ALDOT has moved to fast-track the process despite overwhelming local opposition. The agency opened the project for bid on December 5 and immediately awarded the contract to the sole bidder, Midsouth Paving of Birmingham, with the intention to begin construction in December and complete the widening by April 2015.
Residents and local elected officials charge that widening the .75-mile historic residential stretch of North Eufaula Avenue would be ineffective in alleviating the temporary congestion the city occasionally experiences during holiday weekends and summer months, and would cause irreversible damage to Eufaula’s hospitality and tourism industry as a result.
“We are disappointed in the decision and are reviewing our options at this time,” said Sarah Stokes of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Birmingham office. “We remain committed to identifying an alternative that protects the historic integrity of North Eufaula Avenue without the harmful impacts from this destructive project.”
About the Eufaula Heritage Association:
The Eufaula Heritage Association was formed in 1965 to prevent the loss and destruction of the town’s historic treasures. www.EufaulaPilgrimage.com
About the National Trust for Historic Preservation:
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. PreservationNation.org
About the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation:
The Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation is a membership organization supported by individuals, families, and groups throughout the state. The Alabama Trust provides a statewide voice for preservation and assists local efforts to preserve and adapt historic resources for the enrichment of our state's history, economics, and future. AlabamaTrust.info
About Southern Environmental Law Center:
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org