The Future is Here: Recent California Court Decision Under CEQA Is Great News for Transportation

In a decision of importance to transportation projects throughout California, the California Court of Appeal rejected environmental challenges to the $1.5 billion extension of the Exposition Corridor light rail line in Los Angeles.  Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (2012) __ Cal.App.4th __ (April 17, 2012, B232655).  The decision is cause for optimism, not only for transportation agencies, but for all Californians who stand to benefit from transportation projects designed to reduce air emissions and traffic congestion.  Nossaman represented the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority in the litigation.

Among many other challenges, the project opponents challenged the Expo Authority’s use a future baseline to determine the significance of traffic and air quality impacts arguing that the use of a future projected baseline would result in a comparison of the project’s impacts with hypothetical future conditions.  The Court of Appeal rejected the opponents’ argument noting that as a major transportation infrastructure project that will not even begin to operate until 2015 at the earliest, its impact on presently existing traffic and air quality conditions will yield no practical information to decision makers or the public.

Project opponents throughout the nation are challenging the use of future conditions to evaluate traffic and air quality impacts.  In 2010 a California Court invalidated the approval of a road project where the lead agency used opening day conditions to evaluate traffic impacts.  The Court in Neighbors for Smart Rail declined to follow the reasoning of the earlier court decision.

  • Robert D. Thornton

    Robert Thornton specializes in advising state and regional infrastructure authorities on environmental issues regarding large infrastructure projects.  He has successfully defended more than $12 billion in regional ...

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