Today I spoke with FWHA Tennessee Division Administrator Pamela M. Kordenbrock regarding our request for FHWA to require an Environmental Impact Statement for the Alcoa Parkway/bypass project and to clarify a couple of points in her previous response re. same. (See here.)
Ms. Kordenbrock said in her letter that "FHWA approved an Environmental Assessment" for the project in 2004. I asked if she could clarify that, and she said that no decision or "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI) has been issued by FHWA, and that it was her understanding that TDOT has not submitted the final EA. She said that her letter was referring to FHWA's approval for TDOT to prepare an Environmental Assessment as opposed to a more thorough environmental study (i.e. Environmental Impact Statement).
I asked how FHWA arrived at a determination regarding the required level of environmental documentation (an EA v. an EIS) for a project of this scope, which involves acquisition of all new right of way as opposed to the original proposal to improve the existing corridor. She said she didn't know because that decision was made before she got there, and she referred me to TDOT.
I asked Ms. Kordenbrock if there were any FHWA records of the decision, such as meeting minutes, notes, memos, etc. She referred me to TDOT.
I asked if there were FHWA policies or procedures for approving the required level of environmental documentation. Ms. Kordenbrock said yes and that it was covered by NEPA, but that the FHWA initially lets TDOT make that determination acting on behalf of FWHA, and then FHWA either approves it or not. She again referred me to TDOT regarding their decision to prepare an EA v. an EIS.
I then asked if FHWA was not the regulator in charge of overseeing TDOT highway project environmental documentation and complance with NEPA. She conceded that yes, they were, and referred me to TDOT for more information.
Several times during our conversation, Ms. Kordenbrock said that I still had time to submit comments to TDOT regarding the project because no decision had been made regarding the EA. I explained that we had submitted comments to TDOT but that we were also asking FHWA, as part of FHWA's regulatory oversight authority, to require TDOT to prepare a full EIS and to include the original existing corridor improvement proposal as an option for the public to comment on a preferred build alternative. Ms. Kordenbrock suggested that I express my concerns to TDOT.
This is an unsatisfactory response from the FHWA. The FHWA is the regulator, but they are deferring to the regulated (TDOT) regarding FHWA oversight.
I concluded by asking Ms. Kordenbrock to at least file our letter away and read it again when TDOT submits their final EA for FHWA approval, and to consider requiring an EIS and public hearings on a preferred build alternative that included both the bypass and the existing corridor improvement options.
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- TDOT PROJECT WEBSITE
- FHWA/TDOT Finding of No Significant Impact
- 1998 TDOT proposal EA with public comments
- 2004 TDOT proposal EA with public comments
- TDOT transcript of Nov. 9 2010 public meeting
- TDOT public comments received after Nov. 9 2010 meeting
- Raw audio recording of Nov. 9 2010 TDOT meeting
- Map of proposed route
- Knox TPO Feb. 2010 Agenda w/attachments
- Map of local area TDOT projects
- Knox TPO Long Range Transportation Plan Update
- Knox TPO Transportation Infrastructure Program FY11-14
- Knox TPO Executive Board minutes Aug. 2006
- TDOT Nov. 9 2010 public meeting notice
- Printable opposition flyer for public meeting
- Maryville Daily Times ad
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- Tennessee Department of Transportation
- Knoxville Region Transportation Planning Office