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Climate Change Must Be Addressed in Bridge Studies

New climate change guidelines make for better decision-making

New federal guidelines require agencies to consider climate change when evaluating proposals, providing a vital tool to inform and improve public decision-making. (© Robert Llewellyn)

Today the Obama Administration released guidelines on how federal agencies should consider climate change when assessing proposed projects.

The guidelines, which apply to all federal projects reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act, will impact decisions involving everything from transportation projects to power plants, pipelines, and oil drilling. Until now federal agencies have been inconsistent in how they considered climate change in project reviews, often ignoring it completely.

When reviewing any new project, the agencies must consider both the direct and indirect impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. For a proposed new highway, for example, federal agencies will need to consider the greenhouse gas impacts of building the highway, as well as the emissions that would result from additional sprawl or traffic. Perhaps most significantly in informing decision-making, agencies are now required to quantify and compare the climate changing effect of different alternatives, allowing the public an easy way to see which alternatives will have the least impact.

“This guidance will allow us to better tackle the challenges of climate change,” said Kym Hunter, attorney in SELC’s Chapel Hill office. “But it also provides greater transparency and more information to help make decisions about where our limited federal dollars are spent. These guidelines give all taxpayers a better accounting of the impacts and costs of federal projects.”

SELC has commented on the adminstration’s draft guidelines multiple times as they have been in development the past eight years, particularly asking for a greater focus on transportation. In the Southeast, transportation is now the leading contributor to climate change-causing pollution.

In addition to transportation, the guidelines have significant implications for coastal spending and development. The guidance specifically refers to transportation projects on coastal barrier islands, such as proposed bridges in the Outer Banks, and directs agencies to consider the consequences of rebuilding with sea level rise and more intense storms. It also discusses how chemical facilities near the coast could have increased risk of spills or leakages, putting local communities at risk.

While draft versions of the guidelines had set a greenhouse gas emissions threshold to trigger consideration—something SELC urged against—the final version removed that and now requires climate change analysis for all projects.

“We know Southeastern coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, so this is a huge step forward for better decision making in our region,” said Hunter. “Just asking the question of how each project will affect and be affected by climate change could lead to better decisions about transportation, coastal development, and energy production.”

Source: www.southernenvironment.org/news-and-press/news-feed/new-climate-change-guidelines-make-for-better-decision-making

SELC Mid-Currituck Bridge

Mid-Currituck Bridge, NC | Southern Environmental Law Center

SELC uses the power of the law to champion all the things you love about the South: clean water, healthy air, mountains, forests, rural countryside, and the coast.

Source: www.southernenvironment.org/cases-and-projects/mid-currituck-bridge-nc

Presentation Given by the SELC June 1, 2016

SELC Mid-Currituck Presentation

 

 

S.E.L.C. Community Meeting June 1, 2016

SELC Community Meeting June 1 2016

SELC Letter to NCBOT Nov. 2015

 

 

Mid-Currituck-SELC-Letter-to-NCBOT

 

 

 

Accelerated Timeline Questionable

The timeline is a farce and NCDOT knows it!

1. There is no Record of Decision. No R.O.D., no bridge.

2. They are trying to fund 60% of the cost with toll revenue bonds and without the “gap” funding that was removed from statute, $28 million/year for 30-40 years; no private equity- the PPP was canceled last December; and no Federal T.I.F.I.A. loan all of which were needed to keep the tolls as $26 each way during peak travel times, the tolls will be vastly higher and will probably be cost prohibitive.

3. A Financial feasibility study still needs to be done to determine if the project is viable. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority annual report indicates that study won’t be complete until 2017 sometime, so the project has not been determined to be financially feasible.

4. A supplemental EIS needs to be done as the environmental documents are too old and inadequate.

5. There is no accounting for lawsuit delays which add at least 1.5 years+ to timeline.

So Governor McCrory, whose signature Strategic Transportation Investments law to remove politics from transportation decision making,  has reversed course and is now touting the poster child of politically polluted transportation projects – the very reason for his S.T.I. law in the first place.

Mid-Currituck Bridge Timeline Accelerated

There are many concerned citizens and vacationers that support the SELC in their efforts against Mid-Currituck Bridge, an unnecessary, extremely expensive, and environmentally damaging project.

COST

The cost of the project has ranged from $750 million in a 2010 Letter of Interest for a federal T.I.F.I.A. loan to a “normalized cost” of $410 million for scoring purposes only during the P3.0 process. As recently as November 2014 the federally approved STIP cited a cost of $621 million. One month later the new draft STIP listed the cost at $475 million, $65 million more than the cost used for scoring. Now the NCDOT claims the project cost is $435 million. The NCDOT has not explained the drastic $200 million drop in the price tag. The Public Private Partnership has been cancelled; the annual $28 million per year “gap” funding has been removed from state statute, so the tolls would be much higher than the $26 toll each way.

HURRICANE EVACUATION

Bridge supporters also claim the bridge is needed for hurricane evacuation. According to the FEIS, adding an additional outbound lane on US158 or using the center turn lane for hurricane evacuation would be more effective. It is up to the county to call for an evacuation, not the state nor the feds. Hurricane tracking today gives days, not hours of advanced warning of impending landfall so the bridge is not “needed” for that purpose. Just 4 years ago, hurricane Irene slammed this area a week before Labor Day, with a 7 foot storm surge hitting Duck, everyone was evacuated safely.

SEASONAL TRAFFIC ON NC12

To alleviate the heavy traffic experienced on NC12 north of US158 during the tourist season, the least expensive and environmentally damaging alternative that would provide the most relief would be to widen the existing road, the ER2 alternative that was part of the FEIS, the alternative that the bridge supporters oppose. If you don’t add sufficient capacity to NC12 by adding additional lanes, the traffic will not improve since once the vacationers arrive, as they travel NC12 throughout the week. The bridge would not affect any of that traffic but would add to the congestion due to the increase of day trippers from Virginia and surrounding areas. A major known problem is Duck’s 60 foot right of way with development close to the road. The standard right of way is 80 feet. As we all know, Duck’s speed limit is 25 with single lane traffic in each direction. Fix the problem where the problem lies at a much lower cost to the tax payers and the environment.

ENVIRONMENT

We live and earn our living here because of our natural environment. Fishing, hunting and recreational activities bring vacationers that drive our economy. The bridge project will damage the Currituck Sound from polluted bridge runoff among a host of other issues, increase pressure on the 4 wheel drive area with increased traffic on the northern beaches, and lead to the wildly popular Corolla wild horses being penned up like they are in Ocracoke for their own safety.

Our local politicians have heavily lobbied to tell you that the bridge is “needed” for economic development of the Currituck OBX. That is the claim that was used in the 1980’s when the bridge was first discussed. They claimed then, as they are now, that the Currituck OBX cannot be developed without the bridge. Today, Corolla is more than 70% built out so, that “need” along with the others falls flat.

Business recruiter: Time for an interstate

“Having that shield does make a difference.”
NCEast’s John Chaffee on the need for a freeway

By William F. West
Staff Writer The Daily Advance
Saturday, April 4, 2015

The leader of a regional economic development group said that a freeway via Elizabeth City is needed to help boost commerce between the Raleigh-Durham area and Virginia’s Hampton Roads area.

“It’s about time that northeastern North Carolina has an interstate,” NCEast Alliance President John Chaffee said at the recent quarterly meeting of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Committee of 100.

Chaffee told the group not to get tied up about the specifics of where the freeway would be built, but to remember the big picture about businesses and industries wanting to locate near an interstate.

“There’s a big gaping hole in the northeast,” he said of the lack of an interstate. “And this is an effort to be able to rectify that.”

“Having that shield does make a difference,” he said of the red, white and blue sign being a key in recruiting business and industrial prospects.

U.S. 64 resembles a freeway east from Raleigh and is co-signed as Future Interstate 495 to Rocky Mount.
Supporters of a high-speed corridor also want future interstate signs put up on the freeway-like U.S. 64 from Rocky Mount to Williamston.

They also want future interstate signs put up on U.S. 17 from Williamston into Hampton Roads. While that segment of U.S. 17 is mostly four lanes, motorists encounter traffic signals in Williamston, at part of Windsor, at Midway, in Hertford, at Winfall and at Morgans Corner.

N.C. Division 1 Chief Engineer Jerry Jennings said that the cost on North Carolina’s side of the border would be approximately $1 billion to transform both routes into an interstate.

Chaffee spoke to the Committee of 100 on Wednesday. He gave an outline about NCEast, which was based in Kinston but which is now based in Greenville and which now represents 26 counties.

NCEast had been one of a group of state-supported private and public economic development partnerships until state lawmakers decided to defund them, leaving them with having to find new sources of funding.

The former North Carolina’s Northeast Alliance, which had long been a partnership based at Edenton and whose service area included the Albemarle, decided to merge with NCEast at the start of this year. Chaffee brought former Northeast President Vann Rogerson aboard with NCEast as a senior vice president and also retained two of four former Northeast staffers.

The Committee of 100 serves as an advisory group to the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Economic Development Committee.

Chaffee said that NCEast was originally similar to the Committee of 100, but that NCEast’s activities were ramped up through the years to be a primary economic development organization and perform a variety of tasks. They include marketing and public relations, along with identifying economic development clusters to help attract business and industrial prospects.

Chaffee said that NCEast’s role in marketing and public relations involves promoting business and industrial development on a regional scale to better attract nationwide publicity to benefit eastern North Carolina.

“What we want to do is be a collective voice,” he said.

Chaffee said that, generally, local economic developers want him and NCEast to go out and identify companies wanting to invest approximately $20 million in a new manufacturing plant that employs approximately 100 people.

Chaffee said that he and the NCEast’s team’s strategy is to stay ahead of consultants hired by companies seeking a narrow list of finalists for business or industrial sites. He said that he and the NCEast team instead goes to meet prospects at specialty shows and also seeks out small-to-medium sized businesses who don’t pay experts and who themselves want a business or industrial site that meets their needs.

A key tool to helping prospects fit those needs is putting economic development clusters on an Internet-powered graphic or map. That way, one can scan the region and see what kind of companies, as well as what kinds of federal agencies and departments, are presently in northeastern North Carolina.

Using the cluster method, Chaffee showed the Committee of 100 an illustration of the huge military and homeland security presence, which includes Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City. More than 80,400 are employed by the military or homeland security in the region.

“It’s a big driver of the economy of eastern North Carolina,” Chaffee said.

Chaffee also showed the impact of aerospace, which can include a crossover with defense. There are more than 11,800 jobs in aerospace and defense products in the region.

“It’s all about keeping pilots in the air and making sure their aircraft is ready to go when they are,” Chaffee said.

With a cluster snapshot now visible, Chaffee said that NCEast decided to focus on defense and aerospace, along with agriculture that adds value to products. He also said that NCEast decided to include a focus on the life sciences industry, which involves microorganisms, animals, people and plants.

Chaffee said life sciences suppliers employ anywhere from 8,000 to 9,000 in areas just east of Raleigh and in the Greenville, Rocky Mount and Wilson areas. At the same time, he emphasized the supply chain stretches down into Carteret County.

Using the cluster method, Chaffee said he and the NCEast team can then go out and tell prospects which business or service in the northeastern part of the state resembles theirs. He also said he and the NCEast team can approach or contact prospects and tell them about gaps in the supply chains of a particular business or service, which means there’ll be potential customers for them in the region.

“We don’t want people simply to think that eastern North Carolina is the place that you drive through and see beautiful fields of tobacco and soybeans and corn on your way to the beach,” he said. “There are other things that take place here.”

Planners look for ways to ease traffic to the Outer Banks

ER2 ALTERNATIVELocal leaders need to implement and advocate for improvements to the existing roads as outlined in the FEIS for the Mid-Currituck Bridge.  Known as the ER2 alternative to building a bridge.  ADD PAVEMENT TO NC12, Southern Shores through Duck and build the flyover interchange at the US158/NC12 intersection. 

 


http://www.wvec.com/home/Planners-look-for-ways-to-ease-traffic-to-the-Outer-Banks-269889301.html

 

 

Facts Speak Volumes

Take a look at the cost used in August 2012 It is $611,000,000. It does NOT resemble the cost used ONLY to score the project in the new STI formula of $410,820,000

FY 2013 TIFIA Letters of Interest
Submitted through September 30, 2013
Amounts in Millions of Dollars

http://search.fhwa.dot.gov/search?q=cache%3A9pl3AwsYgvcJ%3Awww.fhwa.dot.gov%2Fipd%2Fpdfs%2Ftifia%2Ffy2013tifialettersofinterest093013.xls+Mid-Currituck+Bridge&output=xml_no_dtd&client=fhwa_web&lr&proxystylesheet=fhwa_web&ie=UTF-8&site=fhwa_web&access=p&oe=ISO-8859-1

 

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