Legal Migraine on Top of Traffic Headache

     DALLAS (CN) – Business owners in north Dallas demand in court that Texas stop construction of the $2 billion Interstate 635 Express Project, at the second most-congested section of highway in the state.
     Lead plaintiff Lamar Advantage Outdoor Co. claims the Texas Department of Transportation failed to prepare mandatory impact assessments of its takings.
     Lamar owns five billboards on I-35 East that are affected by the construction, it says in its complaint in Dallas County Court.
     Plaintiff Ralston Outdoor Advertising owns four nearby billboards. The other plaintiffs – LCSWS Investments, Levering Enterprises, Ralston Investments, David Perry, BCK Properties JVs and Thomas Forest Graham – all own commercial property in the area.
     I-635 was the second-most congested roadway in the state last year, amassing more than 2.74 million hours in delays, according to TxDOT .
     The $2 billion project was approved in 2009 and calls for rebuilding and widening of the highway’s eight lanes, six new toll lanes, construction of continuous frontage roads and new elevated toll lanes along I-35E, with direct connector ramps to and from I-635.
     TxDOT had to buy at least 85 acres of additional right-of-way from private property owners, the plaintiffs say.
     In July 2011, attorneys for Lamar and Ralston asked for a copy of Takings Impact Assessments for the project, which are required by law, according to the complaint.
     The plaintiffs say a month passed before TxDOT admitted it had no such documents. In May this year the attorneys asked TxDOT to stop work on the project immediately until the issue is resolved.
     “TxDOT did not cease work but instead sent correspondence on May 29, 2012, stating that TxDOT did not need to prepare a TIA,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs disagree. They say that state law requires a TIA before a government entity takes action “that imposes a physical invasion or requires a dedication or extraction of private real property.”
     “Under the act, a governmental action is void if a TIA is not prepared,” the complaint states. “A private real property owner affected by the action ‘may bring suit for a declaration of the invalidity of the governmental action.'”
     The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the project is invalid under the Private Real Property Rights Preservation Act, and they want the work stopped.
     They are represented by J. Allen Smith with SettlePou of Dallas.

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