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JUDGE REJECTS 2ND MOTION TO HALT WORK ON HIGHWAY

For the second time in a month, a federal judge has rejected a motion to halt the highway expansion project through Provo Canyon.

A group of recreational and environmental interests called the Provo River Coalition had asked U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell to stop work on U.S. 189 pending litigation of its lawsuit.Campbell refused to issue an injunction, saying the coalition had failed to provide sufficient evidence of environmental harm. On April 10, Campbell denied the group's motion for a temporary restraining order.

The coalition is contending that the federal and Utah transportation departments did not adequately consider the environmental impacts before proceeding with construction. It also argued that a new environmental study was necessary due to design changes after the old study was completed.

Highway officials responded that they had addressed the coalition's concerns, fully involved the public and followed all of the required procedures in designing the $34 million project.

Though it is not one of the most expensive or massive highway projects in the state, the U.S. 189 expansion has drawn the attention of environmentalists because of its proximity to the Provo River.

UDOT spokesman Kent Hansen said highway officials have been sensitive to environmental concerns. For example, he said crews are currently building tunnels through the mountain to place the road farther from the river. Also, retaining walls are being built to protect the river below. And the area will be reforested and revegetated before the project is completed this fall, he added.

"We've satisfied the people (in public hearings), the Environmental Protection Act, Federal Highway Administration and now the judiciary," Hansen said. "Apparently the only ones we haven't satisfied are the plaintiffs."

Although the coalition has the option of taking its case to the 10th Circuit Court in Denver, Hansen said the decisions so far "bode well" for the project. It is scheduled to be finished this fall.

Attorneys for the coalition could not be reached for comment.