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On March 24, 2004, the Federal Highway Administration issued a Record of Decision (ROD) approving a corridor for I-69 between Evansville and Indianapolis. This corridor, designated as Alternative 3C in the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for I-69, is generally 2000 feet in width, although it is wider or narrower in some places.
FHWA and INDOT are will prepare six separate Tier 2 EISs for I-69 between Evansville and Indianapolis. EIS documents for Sections 1 through 5 are complete. The Tier 2 EISs determine the alignment, interchange locations and design characteristics of I-69 within the selected corridor, as well as develop more detailed mitigation measures. Based on the Tier 1 studies, it is anticipated that the actual right-of-way needed for I-69 will be approximately 340 feet wide, as compared with the 2000 foot width for the corridor.
Each of the six Tier 2 EISs examines a section of the selected corridor. The Tier 2 sections range in length from 13 to 27 miles. The termini for the Tier 2 sections were described in the Tier 1 EIS and were approved by FHWA in the Tier 1 ROD.
Following is an overview of key components of each Tier 2 study.
Public and Community Outreach. As in the Tier 1 study, Public and Community Outreach and Involvement will have a key role in choosing the alignment and determining context-sensitive solutions for I-69. The extensive program of community outreach will include the following:
Project Office. Each section has its own local project office, located within the section being studied. These project offices will be staffed by those conducting each Tier 2 study. The offices will be open during posted business hours, and staff will be available to answer questions or provide further information about the study.
Community Advisory Committees (CAC). One or more Community Advisory Committees will be formed within each Tier 2 section. Citizens who represent groups, organizations, or major constituencies from the local communities will be chosen by INDOT for each CAC. The CACs will serve as a means to provide input to each Tier 2 study, as well as to convey information about the study to those whom the CAC members represent.
Public Information Meetings and Public Hearings. It is expected that two public information meetings will be held prior to publication of the Draft EIS (DEIS) for each Tier 2 section. Public information meetings provide opportunities for the public to provide input into the development of the DEIS. In addition, a formal public hearing will be held in each section following the publication of the DEIS for that section. The public hearing provides an opportunity for the public to submit comments on the DEIS.
Public Participation Meetings. In addition to public information meetings and public hearings, FHWA and INDOT also will meet informally with community, business, civic and environmental groups.
Project Website. This project website has sections devoted to various sections of the project. It will disseminate information about each section, as well as offer a convenient means to provide input to or request information about each.
Environmental Study. Each Tier 2 section will have a detailed study of environmental impacts associated with the alternatives within each Tier 2 section. This analysis will satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as well as several other federal and state laws and regulations. Following are some of the major environmental analyses which will be conducted in each Tier 2 section.
Land Use Impacts. This analysis will evaluate land use within the I-69 corridor. It also will quantify the impacts of each alternative on different types of land use, such as forest, farmland, wetlands, developed lands, and other uses.
Social Impacts. This analysis will evaluate the social impacts to communities affected by each alternative. It will quantify the impacts of each alternative, such as the number of home and business relocations, effects on existing travel patterns, effects on emergency response (fire and police), effects on school bus operation, as well as other significant community access issues.
Environmental Justice. This analysis will evaluate the potential for disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority and low income populations.
Traffic Impacts. This analysis will study the traffic operations of each alternative. It will address issues of congestion and other impacts which may result from each alternative.
Air Quality Impacts. This analysis will consider the impacts of motor vehicle emissions on air quality. It will ensure that the project conforms to plans for achieving and maintaining air quality standards for pollutants such as ozone and carbon monoxide.
Highway Noise Impacts. This analysis will identify traffic noise impacts, identify and consider noise sensitive land uses, determine existing noise levels, predict future noise levels and the need for possible noise abatement, consider the impacts of construction noise, and coordinate with local government officials.
Historic and Archaeological Impacts. This analysis will include identifying historic and archaeological resources, determining the boundaries of these resources, determining the effects upon any such resources, and resolving any adverse effects upon these resources. This analysis will be conducted as part of a consultation process required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Individuals and groups with an interest in historic preservation can participate in the Section 106 process by becoming designated as consulting parties.
Hazardous Waste Site Impacts. This analysis will identify any properties which may require remediation of contaminated soils and/or removal of hazardous materials prior to or during highway construction. If impacts to contaminated sites are unavoidable, appropriate coordination with US Environmental Protection Agency and Indiana Department of Environmental Management will occur.
Threatened and Endangered Species Impacts. This analysis evaluates the potential impacts on federally listed threatened and endangered species, as well as state listed species. In Tier 1, INDOT and FHWA entered into formal consultation (under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act) with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding two species (the Indiana Bat and the Bald Eagle). This consultation resulted in a finding that the selected alternative is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of each of these species. The Biological Opinion issued by USFWS specifies procedures to be followed for continued consultation in Tier 2. This consultation will be documented in Tier 2 EISs.
Floodplain Impacts. This analysis will determine the encroachment of alternatives on floodplains adjacent to streams and rivers.
Wetlands Impacts. Wetlands are areas which are inundated or saturated to the surface at least part of the time, and contain vegetation adapted to a wet environment. Wetlands are an important habitat for many plant and animal species, and play a key role in maintaining water quality. This analysis will determine the amount and kind of wetlands impacted by each alternative.
Agricultural Impacts. Each alternative will be evaluated using the Farmland Conversion Impact Rating system, in coordination with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Form AD 1006 will be completed for each alternative.
Forest Impacts. This analysis will determine the amount of forest and core forest habitat used by each alternative.
Water Quality Impacts. This analysis will evaluate each alternative’s potential impacts on water quality. It will take into account both the quality of surface waters as well as the quality of underground waters, including drinking water supplies.
Indirect and Cumulative Impacts. Direct impacts are those which result from the actual footprint of the project (e.g., acreage used by the highway, including interchanges, frontage roads, etc.). Indirect impacts include reasonably foreseeable impacts which result from a project – such as the conversion of farmland to residential use due to added economic development resulting from the highway. Cumulative impacts are impacts to the environment which result from the incremental impact of an action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-federal) or persons undertake such actions. The indirect and cumulative impacts upon key resources will be estimated.
Cost Comparison. A detailed analysis of the costs of each Tier 2 alternative will be made. Elements which will be considered in preparing cost estimates include the following:
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For each section, a Tier 2 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) will be prepared. It will compare the impacts, cost, and performance of each alternative. The DEIS for each section will be released for public comment. A public hearing will be conducted for each DEIS.
After the period for public comments on the DEIS has ended, a review and analysis will be made of all comments received. Responses will be made to comments, and the DEIS will be revised as appropriate. A combined final EIS (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) will be issued, which will include a preferred alternative for I-69 within the section. The Tier 2 FEIS/ROD will conclude the NEPA process section 6 of I-69.