Now that the New York State Department Of Transportation (NYSDOT) has released the Final Scoping Report (4/28/15), including a narrowed-down list of recommended alternatives, the next step for any of these alternatives is to be studied as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS).
The Draft EIS, the drafting of which constitutes the newest phase of the I-81 project, will outline positive and negative environmental impacts of the alternatives that the DOT has deemed worthy of continued study. The analysis conducted during the Draft EIS phase will be used to compare the alternatives based on social, economic, and environmental considerations.
Many of the concerns raised by community members and leaders during the scoping period should be addressed in the Draft EIS. According the DOT, the Draft Environmental Impact Study will look at how each alternative affects a wide range of considerations, including community character, aesthetics, and historic and cultural resources. Additionally, the Draft EIS will study the impact on air quality, water quality, noise and other environmental considerations that the proposed alternatives would have.
The Draft EIS will also assess whether the environmental impact of the proposed alternatives would be consistent with NEPA (the National Environmental Quality Act) and various other appropriate regulations and requirements. Any major highway project like I-81 is subject to several federal and state permits, approval and laws, including:
- Clean Air Act
- Eminent Domain Procedure Law
- Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act
- US Department of Transportation Act
- Uniform Relocation and Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act
The DOT will continue to hold agency and stakeholder meetings during the Draft EIS phase of the project. Refinements to proposed alternatives will be presented and discussed at these meetings. The NYSDOT will also coordinate reviews by federal resource agencies during preparation of the Draft EIS.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) must first approve the Draft EIS, after which the community will be notified of the draft’s availability through local newspapers and the Federal Register. The release of the Draft EIS starts the next phase of the I-81 project, the Public Review period. The Draft EIS will be distributed to government agencies, posted on the DOT website, and made available at multiple locations and project document viewing sites throughout the Central New York region. The public will have 45 days to comment on the Draft EIS. Comments will be taken in a manner similar to the scoping period. A public hearing will be held during this time, allowing the community to offer oral testimony on the findings of the Draft EIS.
Work on the Draft EIS analysis is predicted to continue through 2015, and is not expected to be published until next year. Even as the DOT develops the Draft EIS, ongoing and consistent feedback from the public will be essential to making sure that the concerns and wishes of the public are addressed.
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/j26/6381137451