PREP WORK: It's underway on demolition of the Hughes Street overpass. I-630 project will replace two other overpasses along the 2.2 mile stretch if a suit to block it isn't successful.

A federal case concerning the lawsuit filed yesterday to stop the Interstate 630 widening project has been transferred to federal Judge Jay Moody and the hearing scheduled today was moved to 2:45 p.m.

UPDATE: Judge Moody, after hearing from plaintiffs attorney Richard Mays and ARDOT lawyer Rita Looney at an informal meeting this afternoon, decided that the highway department could continue with plans to tear down the bridge Friday night. Moody said the removal of the bridge, on balance, would have minimal impact on Interstate 630 traffic and the issue of environmental impacts the case raises. Moody set a hearing on Mays’ motion for a temporary injunction against the widening project at 9 a.m. Monday.

Advertisement

The judge was concerned about the cost of delaying the demolition; Looney said ARDOT had already invested $4 million in preparation for the $87 million project and that delay would cost $200,000 a day.

Looney, addressing the judge briefly at the meeting, also disagreed that a 2009 memorandum of agreement between ARDOT and the Federal Highway Administration allowing the work to go forward without a study of environmental impacts had expired, a point Mays made. She also questioned the timing of Mays’ request for a TRO, saying the highway department had held hearings in 2015 on the project. Afterward, Mays said he found the agency’s question “disingenuous,” given how much time had passed since those hearings and the fact that the agency gave only three days notice that the work would begin. — LNP

Advertisement

It will not be a formal hearing, but an open court discussion of issues in advance of a hearing Monday, said Richard Mays, attorneys for plaintiffs in the suit that says the $87 million project didn’t have a proper environmental review.

Mays said he hopes to get the judge to direct the Arkansas Department of Transportation not to begin demolition of the Hughes Street overpass, scheduled to begin Friday, until the hearing. A Highway Department spokesman said, despite some public concerns, that that work has NOT begun — only fencing around the overpass. Work on the project began Monday night.

Advertisement

Leslie Peacock will be in court this afternoon to report on developments.