A Chicago federal judge has thrown the brakes on a plan to construct a new bridge over the Fox River in northwest suburban Kane County, saying the plan could harm a kind of bumblebee placed last month on the Endangered Species List.
On April 17, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman granted a temporary restraining order to a group of activists opposed to the construction of the so-called Longmeadow Parkway, a new span over the river planned to be built in Carpentersville, just south of Algonquin. The six-mile project, sought for decades by Kane County planners, is intended to relieve traffic congestion on other river crossings in the region, and particularly on the bridges carrying Route 72 over the Fox River from East Dundee to West Dundee, and carrying Route 62 (Algonquin Road) over the river in Algonquin.
The project has generated sizable opposition from local residents and others who worry about the road and bridge project’s impact on the local environment along that section of the river and in nearby forest preserves.
Kane County had announced the beginning of construction for the project on April 11.
However, this week, the activists, known as Stop Longmeadow, filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, asking the court to halt the work because of their concern over the potential harm the project might do to the rusty patched bumblebee.
Populations of the bee have been found in the nearby Brunner Forest Preserve, and the bee was placed on the federal Endangered Species List just this March, giving the activists another card to play in their effort to stop the Longmeadow road and bridge project.
In her ruling, Judge Coleman said she believed a “brief stay to the project is warranted,” as the anti-Longmeadow group had demonstrated the risk of “irreparable harm” to the bee populations, should the project be allowed to proceed.
“This Court finds that the balance of harms weighs in favor of the plaintiffs and against the public's interest in reduced traffic congestion,” Coleman wrote.
The U.S. Department of Transportation and Kane County transportation officials had argued the sections of the project on which the county had started would not yet encroach on the known bee populations in the forest preserve, and the federal transportation planners had not yet issued the permits needed for the sections of roadway that could come near the bee habitat.
“Pointing to an April 11, 2017 press release from the Kane County Division of Transportation, Stop Longmeadow asserts that work will begin in habitat for the rusty patched bumblebee on April 17, 2017. In actuality, no work is scheduled to begin in Section B-2 or C, where the Brunner Family Forest Preserve is located, until after September 2017,” the USDOT argued.
The USDOT also argued Stop Longmeadow had not abided by rules of procedure and provided 60-day notice of their intent to seek an injunction using the bee as leverage to block the project.
The judge, however, said the timing of the bee landing on the Endangered Species List, followed within three weeks by the county’s construction commencement announcement, means Stop Longmeadow was not out of bounds.
The judge has scheduled arguments on a possible preliminary injunction for April 28.