Merrit Parkway Conservancy and National Trust File Suit
Against Federal Highway Administration To Downsize Massive
Route 7 Interchange In Norwalk
Washington, D.C. (June 1, 2005) - The Merritt Parkway Conservancy and the
National Trust for Historic Preservation, together with the Norwalk Land Trust,
the Norwalk Preservation Trust, and the Norwalk River Watershed Association, filed
a lawsuit yesterday against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), seeking to
downsize the massive new interchange project on the historic Merritt Parkway at Route
7 and Main Avenue in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Bulldozing began last week for the interchange project, which will destroy nearly a
mile of mature landscaping along the Parkway in order to construct massive new elevated
ramps that will loom as high as 36 feet alongside the Parkway. The project will also
demolish two historic bridges, the Main Avenue and Glover Avenue Bridges. Construction
is planned to last seven years.
"It isn't often that preservationists fight to save a highway, but this is no ordinary road,"
said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust. "The Merritt Parkway is one of the most
cherished historic parkways in America. Its bridges are architectural masterpieces, and the
landscaped setting of the Parkway is remarkably intact. The massive new interchange at Norwalk
would be fundamentally inconsistent with that historic character and setting."
"This interchange was designed more than a decade ago for an obsolete project -- the extension
of the Super 7 to the north," said Laurie Heiss, executive director of the
Merritt Parkway Conservancy. "Even though the highway extension has been scrapped,
this project was never downsized to reflect the fact that a full-blown interchange is simply
no longer needed."
The Merritt Parkway Conservancy has been working actively for the past year to modify the
project, even proposing alternative configurations for the interchange, but without success.
"We've exhausted all other avenues. We know we're racing against the bulldozers now, but the
Merritt Parkway is too important for us to sit back and accept this destruction," said Peter
Malkin, co-chair of Merritt Parkway Conservancy.
To view the filed suit please click here.
"This project is grossly out of scale with the historic road and would severely damage
its distinctive character and setting," said Malkin. "To add insult to injury, it would
cost close to $100 million - at a time when many of the Parkway's 66 remaining historic
bridges are neglected and deteriorating and would restrict traffic on The Merritt Parkway
to only one lane in each direction, with diversions over temporary bridges, for up to 15
hours a day for at least three years."
The lawsuit charges that the FHWA has violated a set of three federal laws that protect
historic properties from harmful government projects. Specifically, the lawsuit outlines
The Plaintiffs are asking for the redesign of the interchange to minimize impact on the
historic road and landscape. Winding through 37.5 scenic miles of Connecticut's Fairfield
County, the Merritt Parkway is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and is
designated a National Scenic Byway and State Scenic Road. Built between 1938 and 1940,
the parkway was originally graced with 69 ornamental bridges and more than 70,000 trees
and shrubs. Over the decades, as commuter volume has increased, the Merritt has been modified
in an effort to make it conform to highway design standards. While some of these modifications
have been done sensitively, others have left permanent scars on the historic road - like the
scar that would result from construction of a massive new interchange at Route 7 in Norwalk.
- Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, which requires
"all possible planning to minimize harm" to historic properties (the Merritt Parkway
and historic bridges);
- The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),
which requires the evaluation of less harmful alternatives; and
- Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, which in this case
requires under a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that the interchange project be
consistent with the Merritt Parkway Guidelines, Master Plan, and Bridge Restoration Guide,
and requires accurate disclosure to the Merritt Parkway Advisory Committee of the
project's adverse effects.
The Merritt Parkway Conservancy is a non-profit membership organization celebrating
the scenic, cultural and environmental assets of the remarkable Merritt Parkway.
Through education, advocacy and in the spirit of partnership we work to protect, preserve
and enhance this historic road. Board members represent the towns and cities along the
parkway or bring special expertise to the Conservancy and the Parkway.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization
dedicated to protecting the irreplaceable. Recipient of the National Humanities Medal,
the Trust was founded in 1949 and provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources
to save America's diverse historic places and revitalize communities. Its Washington, DC
headquarters staff, six regional offices and 26 historic sites work with the Trust's 270,000
members and thousands of local community groups in all 50 states. For more information, visit
the Trust's web site at http://www.nationaltrust.org