Environmental Justice Best Practices
With the importance of Environmental Justice throughout the development of any project, FHWA reviewed a number of projects that focused on environmental justice analysis. Out of 30 initial candidates, 10 were selected as case studies of Environmental Justice Best Practices. I-70 East EIS was selected as one of the best practices for its thorough and continuous outreach and involvement with the affected community throughout the project area.
Click to see the FHWA's environmental justice best practices and the I-70 East EIS project as a case study:
Planning for I-70 started nearly 60 years ago. As part of the recommendation for the “Valley Highway,” now known as I-25, it was determined that Denver's major east-west thoroughfare should be located along 46th Avenue to the east of I-25 and 48th Avenue to the west. In 1947, Denver formally requested that the 46th/48th Avenue corridor be designated as a State Highway from Sheridan Boulevard to Colorado Boulevard. Detailed studies and design efforts continued in the 1950s and 1960s, and I-70 construction was completed in 1964.
Project Purpose and Need
Based on comments received during the scoping process at the beginning of the study, plus an early technical assessment of I-70 operating conditions, a statement of project purpose and need has been developed to guide the identification of alternatives and measures by which alternatives will be evaluated.
The purpose of the project is to implement a transportation solution that improves safety, access, and mobility and addresses congestion on I-70.
The need for this project results from the following issues:
Increased transportation demand
Limited transportation capacity
Transportation infrastructure deficiencies
I-70 East Corridor Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
In July 2003, CDOT and Denver's Regional Transportation District (RTD) began a joint study effort called the I-70 East Corridor Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). An EIS is typically a three- to five-year decision-making process required before any major federally funded transportation project can be built. The EIS ensures that issues affecting the community and the environment are identified and considered before making a final decision. The process is conducted by local, state, and federal agencies and is a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The purpose of the I-70 East Corridor EIS was to improve transportation along the I-70 highway corridor from I-25 to Tower Road and to explore potential rapid transit options from Downtown Denver to Denver International Airport.
I-70 East EIS Project Map
(click image to enlarge)
See also: Project Map (aerial).
In June 2006, the highway and transit elements of the I-70 East Corridor were separated into two independent projects, reflecting that they serve different travel markets, are located in different corridors, and have different funding sources. The intent of the separated highway environmental study, the I-70 East EIS, is to identify highway improvements along I-70 between I-25 and Tower Road that would improve safety, access, and mobility and address congestion. The transit study, the East Corridor EIS, is focusing on transit improvements between downtown Denver and Denver International Airport. Additional information on the East Corridor EIS can be found at: www.rtd-fastracks.com/ec_1
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)
In 2008, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released, analyzing four alternatives, two on the existing alignment and two realignment alternatives (2008 DEIS Alternatives). No preferred alternative was identified in the DEIS. Extensive comments from the public, stakeholders, elected officials, and public agencies indicated a lack of strong support for any of the four Alternatives identified in the document. Most comments received during the DEIS public comment period focused on concerns about the Realignment Alternatives (Alternatives 4 and 6), air quality and traffic analysis, and environmental justice and community cohesion mitigation strategies.
The PACT Process and Denver Community Outreach
Due to a lack of strong support for any of the 2008 DEIS alternatives, CDOT and FHWA initiated a collaborative process to identify a preferred alternative. The Preferred Alternative Collaborative Team (PACT) was formed in July 2010, consisting of a group of stakeholders representing federal and state agencies, local governments, and community and business interests. After extensive deliberations—including two corridor-wide meetings—the PACT did not reach consensus on a preferred alternative. After the conclusion of the PACT process, the City and County of Denver initiated an outreach effort with several community work groups, with more than 90 participants. This outreach developed a list of neighborhood goals and expectations to be considered when CDOT and FHWA select the preferred alternative.
Development of new and modified alternative options
Because there was no strong support on any of the evaluated alternatives, the project team reviewed the alternatives in more detail to identify the issues and confirm the validity of the analysis. As a result of this review, the 2008 Draft EIS alternatives were modified and a new alternative option was developed that better met the project's purpose, need, goals, and objectives and satisfied the public's and agencies' expectations. The project team then worked with the community and interested stakeholders along the corridor to further analyze the alternatives and develop a preferred alternative.
The preferred alternative is a direct result of the decade-long process to reach out to the public and seek input. It reflects significant conversations with communities in the corridor and the core values they expressed. The Partial Cover Lowered Alternative responds to the many comments received since the DEIS was published in 2008, along with input received during the PACT process, followed by the City of Denver's subsequent outreach process. As a result of the comments received during these processes, and a review requested by Director Hunt, CDOT reviewed previously eliminated alternatives. The preferred alternative was developed out of a previously eliminated alternative that was modified and re-envisioned. It succeeds in addressing many of the issues previously identified in the DEIS while providing an alternative that responds more closely to the concerns of the community.
Supplemental DEIS (SDEIS)
Whenever there are changes, new information, or further developments on a project that result in significant environmental impacts not identified in the most recently distributed version of the draft or final EIS, a supplemental EIS is necessary.
The I-70 East Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) will be made public on August 29, 2014. A 45-day public comment period will follow this release. Release of the SDEIS and the public comment period will be widely announced via the website, e-mail, mailings, flyers, and meetings. See also: Home and Reports
Continual Public Outreach
Since the beginning of the EIS the project team has been reaching out to residents and business owners throughout the study area. The outreach has included different types of meetings and extensive media to provide information about the project. Community outreach continues to be an important component of the I-70 East EIS. This website contains information on how the project team is working with the public, property owners, businesses and various agencies in an effort to identify an agency preferred alternative. See also: Community Outreach