Letter to Federal Highways

  • 0
  • July 26, 2004

July 16, 2004 | Thank you very much for meeting with us on July 15, 2004 to update us

Utahns for Better Transportation
c/o FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake
Box 2655
Salt Lake City, Utah 84110-2655

Greg Punske
Federal Highway Administration
2520 West 4700 South Suite 9A
Salt Lake City, Utah 84118-1847

July 26, 2004

Dear Greg,

Thank you very much for meeting with us on July 15, 2004 to update us on the status of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) for the Legacy Parkway and related environmental documents and analyses. You and your colleagues asked that we write to indicate what information we would like to review, and when, and how this will affect our ability to comment when the DSEIS is released for public notice and comment. We will try to do so in this letter. We include some very narrow and precise questions below, and some answers to your questions. However, given the fact that so little information has been released by the agencies to date, it is difficult for us to provide a definitive statement of our needs at this time. (It is impossible, for example, to request all pertinent information before we even know what information exists or is being prepared.) In this letter we also summarize what we learned during the meeting and other requests that we presented orally at that meeting. We would appreciate a written reply to confirm your understanding of this information, or to correct any errors or misunderstandings.

You indicated that the agencies currently envision releasing the DSEIS for public review some time during late fall of 2004. We understand, of course, that this schedule may slip based on various factors. You also indicated that of the five technical memoranda being prepared in support of the SEIS, four are very close to completion, and a fifth (the wildlife analysis) is farther from completion. You also indicated, however, that the final technical memoranda would not be released to the public until very shortly before the DSEIS is released, if not at the same time. This is not our understanding of the proposed schedule and procedure that was outlined during the scoping process. We were led to believe that the technical memoranda would precede the DSEIS and be released significantly in advance of it, so that members of the public who are interested in the more detailed, technical analysis would be able to review and understand the agencies’ rationale in more depth. Therefore, we requested at the meeting that we and any other interested members of the public receive notice as soon as the technical memoranda are finalized, and that copies be available for public information.

We also inquired about the status of the travel demand model which is being used to evaluate various project alternatives, and asked specifically for our consultants to be able to speak with agency consultants for the very limited purpose of ascertaining what, if any, changes have been made to the model provided to us by WFRC in April, 2004. We reiterate that we have no intention of attempting to comment on or otherwise influence analysis being conducted by the agencies or their consultants at this time. Rather, we simply request answers to the following very specific and limited factual questions:

In April, we received Version 3.2 (February 10, 2004) of the WFRC model. At this time, we are seeking confirmation that no changes have been made. Specifically, have there been any changes to any of the following?

Future land use by transportation analysis zone (TAZ).
Future existing + committed (no build) road and transit networks.
Model equations.
Model coefficients.

If changes have been made to any of these aspects of the model, we would appreciate written information describing those changes. Regardless of when information regarding changes is released, however, we also requested that any and all changes to the April 2004 version of the WFRC model be fully documented, in writing, so that our reviewers can understand what model changes were made during the process, and why. As you know, failure to document model changes fully during the original EIS process resulted in significant confusion and delays.

We also asked about the status of the analysis of the proposed Redwood Road alternative (with an expanded Redwood Road serving as one component of a sequenced alternative to the current proposed “shared solution”) that we suggested to the agencies in January. You indicated that a “more aggressive” version of our proposal was being modeled to determine whether it would provide enough capacity to meet the stated project purpose and need. We asked that you inform us as early as possible whether, based on the ongoing modeling, this alternative will be evaluated as a full alternative in the DSEIS, a decision you indicated had not been made at this time. We expressed some concern, however, about your proposed change from our proposed “boulevard” concept, which would be consistent with if not enhance commercial and other compatible growth in the Redwood Road corridor, to a more aggressive “arterial” concept. While we understand that it is your intent to model an alternative that maximizes transportation capacity, and appreciate your efforts to look at changes in intersection design and similar factors to do so, you also indicated that an arterial version of this proposal would result in significant impacts to the North Salt Lake business district, potential property relocations, and similar disruptions to existing and future commercial and other development. If this would result in the proposed alternative being rejected on those grounds, we ask that both a boulevard and an arterial version of this proposal be evaluated fully.

During our meeting, your attorneys asked that we indicate how much time we believe would be necessary to provide informed comments on the DSEIS. In response to our question about the length of the public comment period, you indicated that a minimum of 45 days are required under your regulations. Given the tremendous complexity and technical nature of these issues, which you emphasized during the meeting, and delays in production and release of the technical memoranda and other background information on the project analysis, a 45-day public comment period does not provide nearly enough time for a fully-informed analysis by our members and our consultants. We request, therefore, that a minimum of ninety (90) days be provided for public review and comment on the DSEIS and the underlying technical memoranda and other background information. (As indicated above, it is impossible for us to indicate definitively how much time will be needed for our review and comment, without knowing anything about the nature and extent of analysis that will be provided. For example, we still have no information about what modeling or other form of analysis is being used to evaluate wildlife impacts.) Separate and apart from this minimum time requirement, we note with some dismay that it appears that, given your current proposed schedule, the public review and comment period will include the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s holiday periods, when many members of the public travel and have family priorities. That is precisely what occurred during public comment on the original DEIS, a factor that rendered public comment extremely difficult. We ask that you avoid these holiday periods as much as possible, and take this into account as you plan for public hearings and the length of the public comment period.

Please address your reply to this letter to Robert W. Adler, 2915 E. Oakhurst Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84108, and to Roger Borgenicht, 218 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111 Thank you again for meeting with us, and for your cooperation with these requests.


Robert Adler
Roger Borgenicht 

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