The following email was sent out on 12/17/12:
Bumps in the Road for the Proposed Western Bypass?
This has not been a good few weeks for those pushing the Rt. 29 Western Bypass.
In late November, a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency was made public that calls into question the draft Environmental Assessment prepared by VDOT. And just last week, a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers came to light, which says:
“It is clear that the alternatives analysis is based on information that is between 10 and 20 years old, and needs to be updated to reflect current conditions and alternatives.”
~Army Corps of Engineers
Also in November, a story by journalist Jim Bacon, titled “A Bypass Built for Trucks… that Trucks Won’t Use” details how the design of the road won’t work for truckers, a group that Richmond has cited as a major beneficiary of the road.
As we said in our slide series The Problem with Rt. 29 & How to Fix It and Why the Western Bypass Won’t Work — there are a lot of issues with the bypass ‘solution’, and much better ways to spend limited funds. It’s now clear that others share this concern.
Why the Letters Could Matter
>> Read what Cville Tomorrow has to say about the Army Corps of Engineers’ letter.
In lieu of conducting a more comprehensive Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), VDOT opted to prepare a more narrowly focused, and easier to put-together, Environmental Assessment (EA). Before the bypass project can move forward, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) must approve this draft EA, with a “finding of no significant impact.”
Prior to making a finding, the FHWA asked for input from other federal agencies. In response, both the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers clearly state what Bypass opponents have long argued: the draft Environmental Assessment is insufficient and raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the Western Bypass.
We agree. The draft Environmental Assessment that VDOT released in August did not include a thorough comparison of the bypass to the alternatives or an update of expected environmental impacts, and the last comprehensive traffic analysis was completed in 1990! Only a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement will provide the thorough analysis needed before choosing to spend a quarter-billion-dollars (likely more) on an unnecessary, ineffective roadway.
I hope that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers weighing in will be enough to sway the Federal Highway Administration. However, we have heard that VDOT is lobbying them to ignore the call for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
We’re not sure when or what the Federal Highway Administration will ultimately decide, but when they do, we’re hoping they do not overlook what so many others are saying — the Western Bypass is a wasteful project.
Albemarle & Charlottesville Field Officer
The Piedmont Environmental Council
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