The opinion of the court was delivered by: PENN
Plaintiffs, residents of Georgia, initiated this suit to obviate the Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) administrative decision withdrawing highway funds earmarked for I-420 construction. The procedural imbroglio, outlined by plaintiffs, focuses primarily on that portion of the administrative decision which approved the politically controversial project, Georgia 400, as a potential substitution project. Plaintiffs contend that if the decision is upheld they will be adversely affected. The issue presented to this Court, on cross-motions for summary judgment, is whether the administrative decision was arbitrary and capricious or contrary to law. After a thorough review of the record, the motions and the oppositions thereto, the Court concludes that the decision does not violate the applicable statutes.
This action involves a short segment of I-420, planned for construction in Atlanta, Georgia, and unincorporated Dekalb County. Specifically, I-420 would pass through southeast Atlanta, which is an economically underdeveloped area of the city. Therefore, the city anticipated that construction would create jobs and stimulate economic activity in the area. Implementation of this plan, however, was doubtful and "demapping" was suggested as an alternative. PSMF para. 29. If I-420 were demapped, the City Council members wanted to encourage other transportation improvements on the south side. For this reason, there was particular concern that the 108.8 million dollars allocated for I-420, if withdrawn, be diverted to projects in Atlanta's southern district. The Atlanta City Council strongly objected to construction of the North Atlantic Parkway (GA 400), which would run from I-285 southward to I-85 in the northern section of town. In addition, it was estimated that construction would cost close to 100 million dollars. The expense would preclude the selection of numerous other substitution projects which the City Council believed were necessary for the southern district's survival. PSMF para. 30.
On May 16, 1983, the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution, which reflected their position on I-420 withdrawal and substitution programs. This resolution made several statements. First, it explicitly rejected construction of GA 400. Secondly, the resolution supported I-420 withdrawal. Third, it recommended other substitution projects. (Pl. Exh. 2) (D. Exh. 5) On June 20, 1983, another resolution was passed to clarify the Council's position:
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Council of the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that the City Council restates and reaffirms its opposition to the withdrawal of I-420 funds for use in connection with Georgia 400 and that Council advises the Mayor of its expectation that he will respect the Council's position as articulated in this resolution and the Council's May 16, 1983 resolution.
Be it further resolved that the Council expresses its expectation that the Mayor will not concur in any application for withdrawal of I-420 funds unless and until the State of Georgia agrees that the list of substitute projects to which the I-420 funds may be applied shall not include Georgia 400 or the widening of I-20 East.
Mayor Andrew Young acknowledged by letter that both resolutions became law without his signature. He confirmed that the resolutions were an affirmation of the Council's desire to have I-420 withdrawn. "A clear consensus has developed with our city that I-420 should not be built." (P. Exh. 5, D. Exh. 6) Additionally, he stated support for the Council's opposition to GA 400 and he offered to "support the position taken by the Council." There was a difference of opinion, however, on how the I-420 funds should be reprogrammed. Id.
Pursuant to 23 U.S.C. § 103(e)(4), on August 11, 1983, Governor Joe Frank Harris requested that Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) withdraw I-420 from the interstate system. His letter stated that the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the City of Atlanta, Dekalb County and Fulton County concurred in the decision. The City of Atlanta's May resolution was attached in addition to resolutions from the other counties and commissions. Accompanying the request for withdrawal was a concept program for substitute projects. Included in this list was GA 400. The letter candidly represented, inter alia, that the Atlanta City Council opposed GA 400 as a substitute project. However, it was silent on the Council's position that I-420 withdrawal was conditioned upon GA 400 not receiving I-420 funds (P. Exh. 6, D. Exh. 5). The deadline for federal action on the withdrawal request was September 30, 1983. 23 U.S.C. § 103(e)(4).
On September 29, 1983, the Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Urban Mass Transportation Administration issued a letter in reply to Governor Harris' request for I-420 withdrawal and approval of substitute projects. The letter, signed by FHWA Administrator, Ray Barnhart, and Acting Deputy Administrator, G. Kent Woodman, stated approval for withdrawal of I-420 funds:
We have determined that I-420 is not essential to completion of a unified and connected Interstate System. The westerly 0.60 mile segment of I-420 is considered open to traffic, as defined in 23 C.F.R. § 476.2(b)(6), and cannot be withdrawn from the Interstate System. We recently received additional information which makes the extent of local support for the withdrawal unclear. Therefore, we are approving the withdrawal of the easterly 5.40 mile segment of I-420 subject to receipt of clarification concerning the support for the withdrawal by the local governments concerned . . . we are also approving all 31 of the substitute project concepts listed in the "CONCEPT PROGRAM, I-420 Withdrawal: Fulton/Dekalb County, Georgia" subject to receipt of the above noted clarification.
The gravaman of plaintiffs' claim is that the City Council members specifically made their withdrawal approval contingent upon rejection of GA 400 as a substitute project. (P. Exh. 8.) Many D.O.T. officials clearly questioned the extent of the Atlanta City Council's approval when GA 400 was unequivocally a potential substitute project. (P. Exh. 10, 21A.)
On July 10, 1984, Governor Joe Harris, requested expedition of the I-420 issue. He claimed that the state was unable to program preliminary engineering funds against the substitute project GA 400 due to the conditional nature of the FHWA approval. (P. Exh. 13.) Specifically, on the issue of local government support, he stated:
Also, the Atlanta Regional Commission, which is the designated MPO for the Metropolitan Atlanta Area - has provided a detailed history of the region's support for the withdrawal of I-420. I believe the documentation conclusively shows that all ...