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Bergmann v. United States Dep't of Transportation

May 7, 2010

DIETRICH R. BERGMANN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court is defendants' motion to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (the "Eastern District of Michigan"). Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion to transfer venue.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Dietrich R. Bergmann ("Bergmann") is a resident of Ann Arbor and Gross Pointe Woods, Michigan. Am. Compl. ¶ 68. He brings this action, pro se, challenging "two interrelated highway construction projects that the Defendants and the Michigan Department of Transportation ("MDOT") propose for construction in the City of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan." Am. Compl. ¶ 1.

Specifically, plaintiff challenges defendants' approval of (1) the Detroit River International Crossing project (the "DRIC project"), and (2) the Interstate Highway 94 Rehabilitation project (the "I-94 Rehabilitation project"). See generally Am. Compl.; Pl.'s Opp'n Br. at 5.

A. The Detroit River International Crossing Project

The DRIC project involves the construction of a new bridge connecting Detroit, Michigan with Windsor, Ontario in Canada. See Am. Compl. ¶ 14; see also Defs.' Ex. C, DRIC Record of Decision ("DRIC ROD") at 1 (explaining that the DRIC project "consists of an interchange connection from I-75 to a new U.S. border inspections plaza and a new bridge to Canada"). The DRIC project began in 2001, when representatives from the Federal Highway Administration ("FHWA"), the MDOT, and two Canadian government agencies met to discuss border transportation demand. DRIC ROD at 1. The governments commissioned a planning study, which determined that additional capacity was needed to meet future transportation needs. Defs.' Ex. C, DRIC ROD at 1. Consequently, on March 24, 2003, a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") for a border crossing was published in the Federal Register. Defs.' Ex. C, DRIC ROD at 1. A "scoping meeting" was held in Detroit, Michigan in August 2005. Defs.' Ex. C, DRIC ROD at 1.

In February 2008, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement ("DEIS") was signed by defendant James J. Steele ("Steele")*fn1 in Lansing, Michigan, and a Notice of Availability was published in the Federal Register. Defs.' Ex. C, DRIC ROD at 1. Public hearings on the DEIS were held in Detroit, Michigan, and comments to the DEIS were solicited for a 90-day period. Defs.' Ex. C, DRIC ROD at 1; see also Defs.' Ex. B, DRIC FEIS at ES-5 (discussing the steps taken to facilitate public involvement in the DRIC project, including: holding "almost 100 public meetings, hearings, and workshops"; opening a DRIC Study Information Office at the Delray Community Center in Detroit "to provide information and answer questions about the project"; mailing notices of public meetings to "approximately 10,000 residences and businesses"; and handing out fliers door-to-door "in Delray and along the I-75 service drive north of the freeway").

On November 21, 2008, defendant Steele signed the Final Environmental Impact Statement ("FEIS") for the DRIC project. See generally Defs.' Ex. B. The FEIS identified the Delray neighborhood of Southwest Detroit as the preferred alternative for the DRIC project. See Defs.' Ex. B, DRIC FEIS at ES-16 - ES-26, 2-56. Two months later, on January 14, 2009, defendant Steele signed the ROD, which approved the implementation of the pending DRIC project in the preferred Delray location. See generally Defs.' Ex. C. The DRIC project is currently in its design phase, which is expected to take at least 18 months. See Docket No. 13, Declaration of James J. Steele ("Steele Decl.") ¶ 15 (explaining that the DRIC project moved from the project assessment phase to the design phase, but noting that "[t]he project will not move forward in a meaningful way unless and until the Michigan state legislature authorizes and funds the DRIC").

B. The I-94 Rehabilitation Project

The I-94 Rehabilitation project is a highway construction plan that involves the widening of a seven-mile segment of I-94 in Detroit, Michigan. Am. Compl. ¶ 17; see also Defs.' Ex. E, I-94 FEIS at 2 ("[T]he I-94 Rehabilitation Project would provide transportation improvements to 6.7 miles of I-94 ("Edsel Ford Freeway") in the city of Detroit from just east of I-96 to east of the Conner Avenue interchange."). The I-94 Rehabilitation project began in April 1994, Steele Decl. ¶ 4, in an attempt to "preserve and enhance a vital component of Michigan's transportation infrastructure[.]" Defs.' Ex. E, I-94 FEIS at 2.

Defendant Steele signed the I-94 Rehabilitation project DEIS on January 22, 2001, Steele Decl. ¶ 4, which set forth "the alternatives that were evaluated to determine the best option to address current and projected travel demands, reduce the number of traffic crashes, and rehabilitate the pavement and bridges along I-94." Defs.' Ex. F, I-94 ROD at 1. Public hearings were held on the DEIS in Detroit, Michigan, as were numerous community workshops and meetings. See Defs.' Ex. E, I-94 FEIS at 24-25 (describing the comprehensive public participation and agency coordination process initiated by the MDOT). Defendant Steele signed the FEIS on December 21, 2004, in Lansing, Michigan, and the ROD on December 15, 2005. Steele Decl. ¶ 4. Since its approval, however, the I-94 Rehabilitation project has been placed on hold by the MDOT due to lack of funding. Steele Decl. ¶ 14.

C. This Action

Plaintiff filed suit in this Court on July 27, 2009, alleging, inter alia, that defendants' issuance of the RODs for the DRIC and I-94 Rehabilitation projects violated the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), and Sections 4(a) and 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act (the "DOT Act"). See Am. Compl. ¶ 2; Pl.'s Opp'n Br. at 5-6. Through this lawsuit, plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5-7. On December 2, 2009, defendants filed a motion to transfer this ...


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