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Opponents to Merrill overpass lose battle in court


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- The court battle over a Merrill area highway project is apparently over.

When the Wisconsin and U.S. Departments of Transportation built an overpass for Lincoln County Highway C to cross Highway 51, the plan did not include ramps to access the freeway. Spirit Gas Station owner Raj Bhandari and homeowners Larry and Lavonne Gustavson sued unsuccessfully to stop the construction. Bhandari claimed the lack of highway access would have negative impact on his business.

U.S. District Court Judge William Conley ruled in favor of the government, saying Bhandari failed to prove the Department of Transportation violated Federal Aid Highway Act rules when making changes to the intersection. Conley said the improvements to the road did not violate rules for highway access spacing, and that the project was done within Highway Safety Improvement Program guidelines.

Bhandari has since closed his convenience store due to lack of business, but fuel is available using pay-at-the-pump technology.