The opinion of the court was delivered by: GESELL
These consolidated cases are each before the Court on separate motions for preliminary injunction which have been elaborately documented and fully briefed and argued. The focus of these motions is on interim rules promulgated by the Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation designating routes on which longer and wider trucks may operate nationwide. These rules were adopted pursuant to the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA), Pub. L. No. 97-424, 96 Stat. 2097 (Jan. 6, 1983). The interim designations were issued in April, 1983,
and have been subsequently modified in part to address concerns raised by several state governments.
The Secretary contends that her interim designations are consistent with the STAA and that the highways designated are safe for the longer and wider trucks. The Secretary also argues that the STAA does not require designation of all interstate and primary highways that can safely accommodate the larger trucks. Finally, while the Secretary concedes that under § 411 of the STAA final regulations were to be issued by October 3, 1983, the Secretary urges that the delay to date has been justified and that since the final rules are expected to issue within two months, following protracted rulemaking proceedings now in their final stage, no injunction setting a court-mandated deadline is warranted.
In order to consider the merits of these contentions it is necessary briefly to elaborate on the legislative context in which they arise and to identify the precise provisions that govern the Secretary's responsibilities.
In 1956, Congress authorized the establishment of a national system of "federal-aid" highways to be constructed by the states with the assistance of federal funds. See Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, Pub. L. 84-627, 23 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. (1956), and subsequent amendments thereto. Currently there are four federal-aid systems: the Interstate System, the Primary System, the Secondary System, and the Urban System. 23 U.S.C. § 103(a).
The regulations at issue in the present suit affect only the Primary System.
Until recently the only vehicle size limitations imposed by the federal government were restrictions on the width and weight of vehicles traveling on the Interstate System. See 23 U.S.C. § 127 (1976). Aside from these specific provisions, each state was generally free to set its own rules regarding length, width and weight of vehicles and the use of "tandem" trucks. Beginning late in 1982, however, Congress enacted a series of statutes to establish uniform standards for state regulation of vehicle length, configuration, width and weight on certain designated portions of the federal-aid highway systems. The principal statute is the STAA, enacted on January 6, 1983.
Under that statute Congress gave the Secretary of Transportation responsibility for selecting federal-aid Primary System highways to carry traffic subject to these new standards. Congress provided:
(1) The Secretary shall designate as qualifying Federal-aid Primary System highways subject to the provisions of subsections (a) and (c) those Primary System highways that are capable of safely accommodating the vehicle lengths set forth therein.
(3) The Secretary shall enact final rules pursuant to paragraph (1) no later than two hundred and seventy days from the date of enactment of this section [ i.e., by October 3, 1983] and may revise such rules from time to time thereafter.
STAA § 411(e), 49 U.S.C. § 2311(e).
Section 411(a) of the STAA prohibits the states from imposing vehicle length limitations of less than stated dimensions on the Interstate System and on the classes of Primary System highways designated by the Secretary. States may not impose a maximum limitation of less than 48 feet on the length of a semitrailer in a truck tractor-semitrailer combination and a limitation of less than 28 feet on the length of any semitrailer or trailer operating in a truck tractor-semitrailer-trailer combination ("tandem" trucks). Congress expressly barred the states from prohibiting tandem trucks on the Interstate System and the classes ...