The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used its public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) of the South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway to ask the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to conduct more tests and release more information to the community as a supplemental DEIS.
The EPA said ADOT did not include the necessary disclosure of potential particulate matter hot spot impacts and did not conduct the necessary emissions analyses or air toxics risk assessment that should have been included in the DEIS. Without this information the report has been given the EPA’s lowest a rating: “Category 3 — Inadequate Information.”
The EPA also requested reviewing this information with ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and providing feedback before a supplement to the DEIS is published.
In 17 pages the EPA outlined problems with the current DEIS and ways to fix those problems, including using new models provided by the EPA and more recent figures.
“Chapters 1 and 4 of the DEIS appear to overstate traffic problems and emissions resulting from the No Action alternative and the benefits of the Action alternatives,” the comments state. “The population projections employed in the DEIS are based on pre-recession projections, and now exceed the current highest population projections for Maricopa County by Arizona’s Office of Employment and Population Statistics. As a result, the forecasted traffic problems and emissions associated with all alternatives in the DEIS are likely higher than what is reasonably expected to occur based on more current data.”
The comments question how many homes and businesses will be within the “buffer of impact” of the freeway and state that ADOT did not properly investigate or disclose potential health impacts of a freeway that size going through that area.
“A new freeway would significantly increase the exposure of the surrounding community to mobile source air pollution, including diesel emissions,” the EPA said. “As many studies suggest this increased exposure is problematic to health, the DEIS should include an air toxics risk assessment that assesses potential health impacts of the project and characterizes exposures to and risks from the pollutants of concern. This analysis could be useful for decision makers by indicating areas where future risk would be elevated, and further mitigation could be considered.”
ADOT spent 12 years and $21 million on the DEIS, which was released for public comment in April. ADOT opened the process up to public comment for 90 days. That comment period is now over. The state will review all comments received during that 90 days and address them in the final version of the Environmental Impact Statement, which they expect to release in 2014.