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Homeowners Fight Highway Expansion

HOUSTON (CN) - Homeowners are fighting an expansion of U.S. Highway 290, a major east-west road, saying Texas and the federal government gave "a priority, with no lawful basis, [to] commercial interests" that want their businesses visible from the expanded, elevated highway, at the cost of noise and harassment of the homes below.

The six plaintiffs say the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation approved the project without analyzing how noise from the elevated road would affect their property and nearby parks.

They ask the Federal Court to order the highway agency to prepare an "updated noise analysis" of the project, which would widen 38 miles of US 290 and connect it with two other freeways.

The federal agencies approved the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) plan in August 2010.

The plaintiffs say the Texas agency is not party to this suit because of sovereign immunity, "even though the actions of TxDOT are the cause of this complaint."

The state and federal agencies violated their own regulations when they did not analyze the impacts of traffic noise from the expanded highway, nor "document those impacts in accordance with the law," or "develop a mitigation and abatement budget," the homeowners say.

"The consequences of these violations are (a) the needless harm to many neighborhoods and homes in the form of the loss of property values and the loss of quality of life, such as not having a peaceful backyard or an easy conversation with your neighbor on the sidewalk," the plaintiffs say.

"The plaintiffs in this action are not opposed" to the project, they say. But they want the U.S. Federal Highway Administration's approval withdrawn because it is "premature and too broad in scope."

They also object that "TxDOT has expressed a priority, with no lawful basis, by commercial interests who it claims do not want their establishments hidden by highway drivers on these elevated structures over the interests of residents below these elevated structures who will suffer the noise from the elevated structures."

The homeowners have a long list of demands, predicated upon claims that Texas and the United States "threatened or bullied" homeowners along the corridor, who cannot afford to mitigate the effects of the noise and other problems.

The plaintiffs are represented by Carol Caul.

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