Saturday, May 28, 2016

Expected Loss of Residential Property Values due to the Lafayette Connector

Source: Lafayette Consolidated Government,
Metropolitan Planning Organization
The old joke asks "What are the three most important factors in determining the value of a house?" The realtor answers "Location, location, and location." There is clearly some truth in this joke, and location close enough to an interstate highway to see it or hear it or smell it is clearly a negative.

The area of impact of the I-49 Connector project has been wordsmithed by proponents into the project's "area of influence." The attached figure outlines this area of influence as defined by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The question I'm asking here is "How much will home values within the impacted zone be depressed if the I-49 Connector project is built?" This is a vitally important question because for many residents their home is their greatest financial asset.

Residential property values of homes located near interstates are reduced because of noise, pollution, and appearance of the roadway. Taken together, these impacts on appraised value from being located close to an interstate are called interstate proximity stigma.

How much would the proximity stigma of the I-49 Connector reduce property values? Research looking at home sales from 2002-2005 within one mile of Interstate 90 in Seattle (Kilpatrick and others, 2007) confirmed the anticipated result - home prices closer to I-90 were lower, and prices more distant are higher. Under the researchers' model, a home 0.4 miles from the interstate lost 4% of its value relative to a comparable home one mile from the roadway; a home 0.1 miles from the roadway lost 13% of its value. Consistent with these findings, Clark and Herrin (1997) found a 10% reduction in value when homes were located within 0.25 miles of an interstate.

Thus, it is concluded from these studies, as well as common sense, that home values within the zone of influence would be reduced after construction of the I-49 Connector. A 10% reduction in value is a reasonable guess based on the cited research. Moreover, it is reasonable to further assume that houses in the impacted area will typically be harder to sell and will stay on the market longer than houses not suffering the interstate proximity stigma.


References:
D.E. Clark, and W.E. Herrin (1997) "Historical preservation districts and home sale prices: Evidence from the Sacramento housing market" The Review of Regional Studies27.1 (1997): 29-48.

Kilpatrick, J.A., R.L. Throupe, J.I. Carruthers, and A. Krause (2007) "The Impact of Transit Corridors on Residential Property Values" Journal of Real Estate Research 29(3):303-320.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The I-49 Lafayette Bypass Option: Teche Ridge

Google Earth image showing the approximate path of the
proposed Teche Ridge bypass.

For nearly two decades, Acadiana residents and taxpayers have urged DOTD to consider an I-49 bypass option following the Teche Ridge in St. Martin Parish. This roadway would follow along the natural ridge that follows west of Bayou Teche. This area has few wetlands, does not flood, and is primarily in agricultural use. An engineering feasibility study, funded in part by the St. Martin Police Jury, was completed by the engineering firm T Baker Smith.

And, as taxpayers the difference in estimated cost is staggering. The 5.5 mile I-49 Connector (Divider) is estimated to cost over $1 billion, while the 20 mile Teche Ridge route would cost far less than one third of that total. This is over $200 million per mile for the Connector before costs of toxic waste cleanup and flood control are even considered. The 20 mile Teche Ridge route would cost a more conventional $15 million per mile.

The Teche Ridge route would obviate extending the Lafayette Regional Airport runway into the Cypress Island Swamp, avoid issues of diminished airport safety, obviate wetland loss from fill, and obviate induced flooding associated with the airport revisions. It also greatly improves resilience of hurricane evacuation for the large population living south of Lafayette.

Furthermore, the Teche Ridge route could be a part of a larger project to provide a bypass loop around our urban core. Combining the Teche Ridge route with the western Lafayette Regional Xpressway (LRX) would give Lafayette a full urban interstate loop. Now, note that this 80 mile loop would cost approximately the same as the 5.5 urban Divider being forced on our taxpayers and neighborhoods.


For more information on the Teche Ridge, check out these resources:

Teche Ridge Bypass Facebook page
  https://www.facebook.com/I-49-Teche-Ridge-Bypass-191859984503529/

Presentation by Harold Schoeffler to the St. Martin Parish Police Jury
 https://www.facebook.com/michael.waldon/posts/10204527887710661

Teche News article on the Teche Ridge Highway alternative.

The Daily Iberian, February 17, 2016, Teche Ridge I-49 proposal gets traction in St. Martin


Hurricane Evacuation via Urban Interstate

Rita evacuees from Houston Texas, September 21, 2005
Photo: Wikipedia - Hurricane Evacuation


Hurricane evacuation routes must not only have capacity to carry evacuation traffic, but must also be resilient in the face of challenges of heavy rain and strong gusting winds, motorists running out of gas as electric outages prevent refills, 18 wheeler truck accidents along with auto accidents, and frightened frustrated drivers. How will the planned I-49 Connector perform under these conditions? How does this performance compare to alternatives?

First, how resilient is the Connector design? Resilience is the proposed design? Answer - not at all. A single truck or motorist running out of fuel or having an accident on the elevated bridge could stall or stop traffic for hours as we have seen all too often on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. The two elevated roadways planned for the Connector will have no emergency cross overs, and will be susceptible to closure for trucks or even all traffic under high wind conditions. Motorists may well find themselves stranded on the bridge as a hurricane approaches. Moreover, resilience is lost in the design by the planned downgrading of traffic capacity on the Evangeline Thruway. Finally, city residents will find evacuation even more problematic under the Connector design as local traffic is concentrated at entrance ramps.

How does this compare to alternative? Bothe the eastern Teche Ridge route, and the Lafayette Regional Xpressway (LRX) to the west offer added resilience to the highway system under evacuation conditions. Both roadways would be primarily at-grade. This makes them less susceptible to wind hazards, and allows more rapid reopening following accidents or blockages. These options would add capacity for evacuation, while leaving existing city roadways available for city and parish residents to also evacuate when necessary.

Residents of Acadiana are all to familiar with the reliability of long bridges. The I-10 Atchafalaya Basin Bridge all too often is stalled by accidents. A colleague of mine who often commuted across this structure always carried her fishing pole for just such occurrences. Let's not depend on a long bridge for evacuation of our families and neighbors.

Crash closes I-10 for 15 hours along basin bridge.
Photo: http://theadvocate.com/home/9073690-125/two-killed-in-i-10-wreck



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The I-49 Lafayette Western Bypass Option: The "Lafayette Regional Xpressway"

One bypass alternative for Lafayette has been under study by the DOTD since 2003. At that time, the Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway Commission was created by the Louisiana State Legislature. They are commissioned to study alternatives for the Lafayette Regional Xpressway, or simply the LRX. The LRX would create a bypass loop which begins in the south at Highway 90 / I-49 south of Broussard, has a major interchanges as it crosses Highway 167 (Johnston Street) north of Abbeville, and I-10 between Duson and Scott. This portion of the roadway would be very roughly 25 miles. The bypass would then continue north and east for roughly 20 miles to return to I-49 north of Carencro. An eastern bypass leg of very roughly 15 miles would run south east from north of Carencro to I-10 west of Breaux Bridge. Total length of the Lafayette Regional Xpressway bypass would then be very roughly 60 miles.

 The Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway 2005 feasibility study’s rendering of a proposed expressway. (Photo: Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway)



At an estimated cost of $760 million, the cost per mile for this roadway is under $13 million per Interstate mile. The 5.5 mile Lafayette Connector project which now has cost estimates of over $1 billion before toxic waste removal and flood mitigation have even been considered. This gives the Connector a cost that will greatly exceed $182 million per mile. 


More information is available at

Lafayette Regional Xpressway Project Website  http://www.lrxpressway.com/

The Advertiser, October 23, 2015,  Citigroup and the Lafayette Loop — what's next?
 http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/2015/10/22/citigroup-and-lafayette-loop/74359164/

The Advertiser, October 23, 2015,  Is Lafayette ready for a traffic loop?
 http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/2015/07/01/still-loop/29588975/

Lafayette Regional Expressway Rendering
Source: http://www.lrxpressway.com/

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Evangeline Thruway did NOT split our neighborhoods!

Let's look at the actual history of Lafayette. The railroad has been an important part of our city's development. By 1885, Lafayette had a full fledged railroad, and significant freight was shipping from Lafayette by train in the 1890s.  New residences were constructed as the railroad developed. However, the presence of the rail yard limited the connection between communities on its two sides. It was not until 1964, after the rail yard was moved to its current location between Willow and Cameron Streets, that multiple connections between the east and west were established. It was not until the 1960s, for example, that Johnston Street was extended to meet Louisiana Avenue across the abandoned yard.

So, when paid Connector proponents tell you that they are reconnecting our city, remind them that currently more than 30 streets connect east to west across the Thruway. None of the plans for the urban interstate development maintain this level of connectivity, much less increase it.
 
Reference: C. Ray Brassieur, Lionel Lyles, Michael S. Martinc, Freetown: As it was and as it is, The Freetown History Project Final Report, November 30, 2013, available at http://www.crt.state.la.us/downloads/HP/freetown/FREETOWN%20FINAL%20REPORT.pdf.

Sanborn overview map, 1940-1949.


Hazardous Cargo in Downtown Lafayette: A Very Bad Idea

Many communities take the prudent step of limiting hazardous carriers from urban interstates. Photo: http://www.billburmaster.com/rmsandw/indiana/interstate/465in.html
Risk results from a combination of the hazard associated with a substance, and the probability of exposure to the public. Many communities reduce public risk by routing hazardous truck cargo along less populated routes which bypass more urban areas. Unfortunately, the added risk of hazardous transport moving at interstate speeds above or adjacent to downtown Lafayette has been ignored by DOTD and our city planners. The prudent approach that minimizes public risk is to first build a bypass route for I-49 around our dense urban core and downtown area. Only after a suitable hazardous material route is available should an urban interstate be discussed.

 


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Moon Suits in Downtown Lafayette

Photo: https://archive.epa.gov/socal/web/html/brownfields.html
Have DOTD or LCG-ECI (aka TIGER Grant) folks, considered what we would see downtown if they actually do construct underpasses or depressed roadway through the huge toxic rail yard? From their public statements, it does not appear that they have given any thought to the subject. 

With high levels of lead, arsenic, asbestos, oil, and TCE, workers will need whole body cover (hazmat suits often called "moon suits") and respirators. After all, this site has been recognized in Federal Court to be a highly toxic site. Additionally, any equipment used at the site will need to be decontaminated, and even the equipment wash water will have to be collected and disposed of as hazardous waste. Any exposure or excavation of toxic soil will also require a dust control plan, volatiles control plan, air monitoring, and collection and treatment of all stormwater and seepage accumulating or running off the site.  Water treatment will likely need to meet drinking water standards prior to discharge.

Of course, citizens who live and work nearby may just have to hope the dust control and volatiles control is working. Citizens going for lunch at Dwyer's or for coffee at Reve will not be issued government hazmat suits and respirators - we'll just be on our own.

So - what would be the alternative to DOTD excavating the site? I believe that such sites are usually left mostly undisturbed. Any especially contaminated locations within the site might be excavated, but in order to protect local people and property, most of the site would be remediated by in-situ methods like "pump and treat." In this method of remediation, wells are drilled into the contaminated layer, water is continually pumped from these wells, and the water is treated and discharged. This approach prevents further spreading of the waste, while avoiding risk of further public exposure. Furthermore, in this approach, no disturbance of the site by excavation, soil boring, pile driving, or similar activity would be allowed for decades or longer as the toxics are slowly carried to the treatment wells. This alternative has environmental, public health, and economic advantages, but is incompatible with elevated roadway, overpass bridge, or underpass construction in near future years. 

Construction site dust can be difficult to control.
Photo: http://cleartheairhamilton.blogspot.com/


Thursday, May 19, 2016

How big will the I-49 Connector retention pond be? Where will we put it?

Retention/detention pond behind the new Costco store in Lafayette, Louisiana.
photo credit: M. Waldon, no rights reserved


The Lafayette I-49 Connector project envisions a new 5.5 mile highway project going through Lafayette. Where will its storm water drain? The 2002 Environmental Impact Statement simply says it will drain directly into the Vermilion at its southern end, and into local drainage which flows to the Vermilion in its central and northern sections. Even in 2002, it must have been apparent that this could impact flooding. Today, we generally require retention/detention ponds to hold back flows from new construction so that no added flooding results from new projects. These ponds also reduce water pollution by settling out some pollutants How could this not be a major topic of discussion today?

Let's do a "back-of-the-envelope" calculation to get an idea of how large the pond or ponds must be. The project is 5.5 miles (29,040 feet) long, and average width is, I'm guessing, about 600 feet. Multiplying gives 17.424 million square feet of total project area. There are 43,560 square feet in an acre, and division gives 400 acres for the entire project area.

A big 3-day rain event in Lafayette can drop a lot of rain, and we need to plan for the really big storms to avoid flooding. At times we have gotten over 20 inches of rain in one day, so I will assume for planning that we get 30 inches in a 3-day event. Of this rain, some runs off, and some is retained or evaporates. For a typical residential, industrial, or open area, 20% to 60% of the rain might run off. Here, I will assume that 30% currently runs off to the Vermilion. For developed areas with significant impervious surface and sloped, compacted, and drained soil, 80% to 95% might run off. Here, I assume 85% runs off. So, 55% more of the rain is expected to run off after the project is completed. This is 16.5 inches (1.375 feet) of new runoff.

The total volume of added runoff is therefore 400 acres times 1.375 feet, or 550 acre-feet of water. Therefore, the pond needs to provide a storage volume of 550 acre-feet. If our retention pond has an average depth of 3 feet above the dry weather water level, then the pond must be 183.33 acres. Making room for shoreline and fence line (maybe even a jogging track), I assume the pond and related features will take up about 200 acres or 8.712 million square feet.  If square, this requires a property 2952 feet (0.56 miles) on each side.

Where in developed Lafayette can  we place such a feature? The pond must be downhill from the I-49 Connector to avoid the costs and uncertainties of pumping. Therefore, feasible placement of this pond is limited generally to the area between the roadway and the Vermilion channel. Further, any destruction of wetlands or residential areas should be avoided. Agricultural land might be an ideal choice, but we are unlikely to find such within the developed urban area within a feasible distance.

Thus, the question remains - How will we deal with increased flooding from the I-49 Connector? Will this be addressed by DOTD in their public meetings?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Impact of I-49 on the Lafayette Airport



Construction of any tall structures at the end of one of an airport runway is, at best, ill advised. Such structures inevitably increase risk of disaster. Allowing such construction by the I-49 Lafayette Connector project would give travelers the perception that Lafayette has a depreciated value for traveler safety. The Lafayette Airport Commissioners represent the public and are tasked with overseeing airport management and promoting the airport. It therefore seems remarkable that The Lafayette Airport Commission has not strenuously objected to plans to construct the elevated I-49 interstate on the airport boundary immediately at the end of one runway.

The 1975 Lafayette Regional Airport Master Plan Report concluded that conditions on the airport's periphery make any expansion difficult, or expensive, or both. The current plan to reroute Bayou Tortue, fill an area of wetlands within the Bayou's floodplain, and construct a runway extension on this unsupportive fill

  • will be an engineering challenge, 
  • will be environmentally destructive, 
  • will be very costly, and 
  • will be politically sensitive. 
The now-obsolete project EIS fails to evaluate or even consider these impacts.
  
from Lafayette Regional Airport Master Plan Report, 1975, page 11.

Social Injustice and the I-49 Connector Project



NOLA.com reports that according to a report by Loyola University researchers "Louisiana dead last in U.S. social justice." This report dated March 18 2016 is available online at
 http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/03/louisiana_poverty_social_justi.html

How does the I-49 Connector fall within this pattern. Planning for the Connector has its roots in the 1960s, a time of very different social justice awareness.  At that time, the idea of urban renewal and improvement was often to simply destroy poor neighborhoods and displace residents to find alternative housing. Homelessness, increased poverty, and loss of community were often the result of this ill-conceived and uncaring strategy. Some urban interstate proponents actually considered the separation and division of communities as positive features of urban interstate divides.

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Photo: CNSNEWS.com
Today, the social impacts of urban interstates are being recognized. US Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox is speaking out on this subject. See the April 29, 2016, article titled "Transportation Secretary: Interstate Highway System Targeted Black, Low-Income Neighborhoods"
http://www.cnsnews.com/blog/penny-starr/transportation-secretary-interstate-highway-system-targeted-black-low-income

Will the socially unjust I-49 Lafayette Connector be allowed. If the words of Secretary Foxx represent more than just words, this project will never be constructed.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Traffic Models Have Large Errors and Do Not Provide Reliable Projections

How much can we trust the traffic model projections for Lafayette? Read this Journal of the American Planning Assoc. article which finds: "... forecasters generally do a poor job of estimating the demand for transportation infrastructure projects. ... For half of all road projects, the difference between actual and forecasted traffic is more than ±20%. The result is substantial financial risks, which are typically ignored or downplayed by planners and decision makers to the detriment of social and economic welfare." 

  http://flyvbjerg.plan.aau.dk/Traffic91PRINTJAPA.pdf

During presentations to the community, our Louisiana DOTD has given dire projections of traffic problems that they predict will happen in 2040 if we do not capitulate to building the I-49 Connector through the heart of Lafayette. As pointed out in the JAPA article, there is great uncertainty associated with all such predictions. And, beyond the model error discussed in this professional journal article, other uncertainties complicate the projections for Lafayette:
  1. The model projections being presented to the community assume no tolls will be charged. Will the Connector charge tolls in 2040? We have been told on numerous occasions that tolls are likely the only feasible way to finance this project. Charging a toll will discourage use for local trips, and actually increase traffic on remaining surface city streets. 
  2. If the Connector is not built, what other highway improvements may happen prior to 2040? If the Connector concept is abandoned, it is likely that one of the proposed I-49 bypass routes will be developed. However, if the Connector is completed, it is unlikely Lafayette will see construction of a bypass by 2040.
  3. What improvements in transportation technology will occur over the next 25 years? The model assumes that in 2040 we will still be driving the same basic cars and trucks, carrying the same freight loads on trucks, and using the same traffic management systems that are in use today.
  4. What will Greater Lafayette's population be in 2040 and how will population centers change? The traffic model uses input demographic projections, and quality of the model output is no better than that of the input. We may believe that the trend of population growth south of Lafayette will continue unabated in future decades. However, realities of availability of suitably drained land, and future increases in flooding from the Vermilion and its tributaries may actually drive population growth north of the city. Really, only time will tell.
So, what does a wise investor do in the face of uncertainty? Certainly not construct the massively costly I-49 Lafayette Connector.

This post was based on an earlier Facebook post

Louisiana Could Assume Cleanup Liability from the Railroad Corporation



BOMBSHELL!!! Last night (April 28, 2016) following the Community Working Group meeting I learned from one-on-one discussion with Dr. Shawn Wilson, Secretary of Louisiana DOTD, that if the railroad is a willing seller of their abandoned rail yard then the current owner must clean it up or pay the state of Louisiana for the cleanup. HOWEVER, if the State expropriates the property, all cost of cleanup can fall to the taxpayer. This could relieve the responsible party of hundreds of millions in liability, and move it onto the public. A DOTD staff person confirmed this, and told me the state has already taken other contaminated property that is in I-49 Connector the right-of-way.

Now, if I were in the shoes of the railroad corporation or any of the other responsible parties who have cleanup liability, what would I do? It would certainly be in my self interest to just let the State of Louisiana take my land, pay me the estimated "fair market value," and enjoy total relief from all responsibility to clean up my own property and the property of property of my neighbors contaminated by migration of the waste.

  --Mike Waldon

This post is based on an earlier Facebook post available at
 https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204988937756624&set=a.1950146486814.85718.1637181971&type=3&theater

Friday, May 13, 2016

DOTD's Failure to Follow Louisiana Open Meeting Laws

Incoming Louisiana Transportation Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson assured
us that openness and inclusiveness will be important goals of DOTD
under his leadership (fast forward to time 6 minutes 12 seconds).



Since relaunching the I-49 Lafayette Connector project in October, open public comment has not been permitted at DOTD sponsored meetings. This action is in clear defiance of the spirit of open government. In the case of committee meetings which are convened to make recommendations or decisions, it is clearly illegal. In his defense, State Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson has noted that the public is allowed one-on-one access to DOTD employees and contractors, and further, can provide written comments in a process similar to a collective project suggestion box. While both of these actions by the DOTD may be considered laudable, the fact remains that the public is not allowed public communication with committees which are assigned advisory and decision-making roles.

What will it take to get our State Transportation Secretary to follow the law? If this behavior is allowed to set a precedent, all future public participation in Louisiana state and local government decision-making is in jeopardy.

Why is the public's criticism so frightening to Dr. Wilson? Perhaps it is because
  • of the overwhelming public support for a bypass rather than an urban interstate
  • of the DOTD's embarrassment at their failure to consider in all current and future planning any actual sampling or measurement of the toxics present in their proposed right-of-way
  • of lack of any assement of the impact of driving pilings into our sole-source water supply through toxic wastes potentially destroying our water supply with toxic contamination 
  • public health impacts from exposure to toxic construction-related dust containing asbestos, lead, and arsenic from decades of rail yard activities
  • of noise impacts on home values and use of outdoor spaces downtown, 
  • of noise and air pollutant impacts on downtown festivals
  • of air pollution from interstate traffic falling over our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods
  • of causing our city to fall into ozone non-compliance which could trigger annual auto tailpipe inspections and limits on future industrial expansion in the city 
  • of adding risks to air travelers as their airplanes must liftoff and land over the elevated interstate proposed to be constructed at the end of the Lafayette Airport runway, 
  • of flooding resulting from huge new paved impervious surfaces that are intended to drain to Bayou Vermilion with no attenuation,
  • of flooding and wetland loss caused by filling acres of wetland in order to extend the airport runway 
  • of what else
The EIS  performed by DOTD for this project was woefully inadequate and inaccurate when it was created. Further, it piecemealed impacts by breaking off the airport reconstruction into a separate study. And, still worse, over the past 15 years that EIS has not aged gracefully. New scientific finding and changes in regulations make this document virtually irrelevant today.

Could these observations be the reason Shawn Wilson wants to stifle public input and awareness? Are there other reasons that Dr. Wilson no longer supports public openness and inclusiveness at DOTD?


Relevant Articles and Editorials

The Advertiser, April 29, 2016, Some not happy I-49 meetings don't allow public discussion
 http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/2016/04/29/interstate-49-meetings-dont-allow-public-discussion/83709888/

The Advertiser, May 5, 2016, Editorial: Let us reason together
 http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/2016/05/04/editorial-let-us-reason-together/83930400/

The Advertiser, May 10, 2016, Voices: I-49 'public comment' requires large open forums
 http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/opinion/2016/05/10/voices--49-public-comment-requires-large-open-forums/84183630/

The Advertiser, May11, 2016, Schoeffler: I-49 connector meetings have violated Louisiana law
 http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/opinion/2016/05/11/schoeffler--49-connector-meetings-have-violated-louisiana-law/84233932/

The Advertiser, May12, 2016, Voices: Consider all options when building I-49 connector
 http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/opinion/2016/05/12/voices-consider-all-options-when-building--49-connector/84280178/


Published resources regarding Louisiana's Open Meeting Laws

The Louisiana Attorney General provides an overview and opinion on the application of Louisiana's Open Meeting Laws
 http://www.ag.state.la.us/Article.aspx?articleID=21&catID=0&printer=1

Other sources of publicly available information include -

The Louisiana Open Meeting Law is available from LSU
 http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/cases/la/adlaw/la-openmeetings.htm

and at this Louisiana Legislative Auditor site
 https://app.lla.state.la.us/llala.nsf/BAADB2991272084786257AB8006EE827/$FILE/Open%20Meetings%20Law%20FAQ.pdf

ThePublic Affairs Research Council of Louisiana publishes a guide to Louisiana Open Meeting Laws
 http://www.parlouisiana.com/s3web/1002087/docs/guidelines_for_open_meetings.pdf

A document from 2009 on the Louisiana Culture Recreation and Tourism site describes 5 things you should know about Louisiana Open Meeting Laws
  http://www.crt.state.la.us/Assets/OCD/hp/grants/certifiedlocalgovernment/documents-and-forms/Open_Meetings_Law.pdf

The Public Affairs Research Council in 2010 published this information on Louisiana's sunshine laws
http://www.nfoic.org/sites/default/files/Louisiana-Open-Meetings.pdf


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Flooding and Drainage Issuse Not Addressed by DOTD



This graph displays velocity of water flow in the Vermilion at the Surrey Street
Bridge. A large rain storm occurred on April 30-May 1. Negative velocity shown
in the graph indicates that the Vermilion was flowing upstream in response to
the storm.  

Lafayette Parish flooding will be increased along the Vermilion River and its tributaries by the Connector project.

A big rainstorm occurred in Lafayette beginning April 30, 2016. Look at this graph of Bayou Vermilion water velocity at Surrey Street - the negative velocity (up to 2 feet per second) means the Bayou is flowing backwards fast! This has important implications for flood control and planning in our community. Much of our flooding happens from water stacking up in the Bayou with no way to flow south. Drainage "improvements" bringing higher peak flows into the Bayou south of the city can raise the stage so much that this downstream water actually flows north and creates a "water dam." Now, coulees draining the storm water from city neighborhoods must either fill the Bayou to higher levels (stages), or back up with no outlet. Many flood planning computer models ignore this "backwater effect." That's OK in most other places in the US, but literally disastrous for flood planning in South Louisiana. 

Video: Backwater in Coulee Mine Branch, Lafayette, La.

NOW - What action do you need to take? When planners for new projects say they have done careful computer analysis and determined that no new flooding will result from their project be very skeptical. Ask if they took backwater flooding into account for both their project near and upstream of their project. You will likely be met with ignorance, arrogance, and condescension, but do persevere. What projects? Well the I-49 Connector comes to mind.

AND - What analysis of flooding impacts did DOTD provide in their 2002 EIS for the I-49 Connector? Basically nothing. Their plan is to provide the very efficient drainage required by interstates, and route the water to the Vermilion either directly, through existing drainage structures, or using very large pumps. No accounting for flood impacts from this massive increase in impervious surface is even attempted. No proposals have been made to build stormwater retention/detention basins for the project. In the EIS, no consideration was given to the residential and street flooding that will result from the project. It is likely we will experience heavy rain during hurricane evacuation, and this planning deficiency is all the more alarming when hurricane evacuation is considered. 

There is a history of DOTD flood and drainage design along US-90 and I-49. During a heavy rain event in 2001, cars went underwater on Hwy 90 east of Broussard where Hwy 92 crosses US-90. Cars had to be routed over to the Teche Ridge area on Hwy 31. In the April 30 - May 1 rain storm The Advertiser (1) reported rainfall of over 10 inches. While this is large, Louisiana at times receives over 20 inches of rain in a day. Occurrence of flooding of the I-49 roadway just north of Lafayette is an alarming sign that the I-49 corridor is not well designed for hurricane or flood evacuation.


Photo: The Advertiser (1).










Further, some DOTD plans for the I-49 Connector call for excavating underpasses or even depressing large parts of the interstate roadway itself. As local citizens know all-too-well, below grade underpasses in South Louisiana have a problematic history (2). Reliance on large pumps makes travel during heavy rain events reliant on maintaining electric power at the pump stations (assuming electric pumps are used), or reliability of diesel-driven pumps and fuel delivery (if diesel power is selected).

1. The Advertiser, May 2, 2016, Flooding Sunday some of the worst seen in years http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/weather/2016/05/01/-49-close-due-flash-flooding/83787580/
2. KLFY, March 18, 2016, University Ave underpass near Cameron St OPEN after flooding
http://klfy.com/2016/03/18/university-ave-underpass-near-cameron-st-open-after-flooding/

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Health Impacts Near Interstate Highways: More Connector impacts not considered in EIS


Lafayette Connector Conceptual Image

New research shows a link between heart and lung impairment and living near an interstate highway. This research further brings into question the propriety of promoting public use of areas in the vicinity of an interstate. A news report describing these findings was published in the Boston Globe on April 14, 2016. Follow this link to read the story
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/04/13/new-evidence-dangers-living-near-highways/hVyqTnY4iyn9YRoNSwWtGI/story.html

These findings bring starkly into question the Lafayette Connector Conceptual Design as displayed in their cover photo (above). Promoting pedestrian use, concerts, parks, playgrounds, and other recreational uses under and surrounding the elevated interstate is ill-advised if such activities may increase health risks. Indeed, the social justice of new urban interstate construction is questionable when findings show that residents living near interstates suffer health risks not shared by the rest of the community. Future use of downtown venues for public festivals and concerts will be jeopardized by the Connector.


Foreshadowing the Lafayette Connector: 'The Monster' - Claiborne Avenue Before and After the Interstate

Photo: The Historic New Orleans Collection
George Santayana is credited with saying "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." With that in mind, look at the history of destruction left by the Louisiana DOTD as they developed urban interstates in the 1960's. In New Orleans they proposed the Riverfront Expressway through the French Quarter and along the Mississippi River. Thankfully, the public outcry prevailed to stop the French Quarter section of interstate, but the Expressway was built through the Treme neighborhood over Claiborne Avenue in 1968.

Read more about this history of loss in this WWNO post titled 'The Monster': Claiborne Avenue Before And After The Interstate.  http://wwno.org/post/monster-claiborne-avenue-and-after-interstate

Plans for the Lafayette Connector date back to this era of urban destruction and social injustice. How can DOTD prevent the same destruction and injustice in Lafayette today that they brought about nearly 50 years ago in New Orleans?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Health Hazards from Toxic Construction Dust

Victory Garden
As just one example, the Victory Garden on S. Pierce Street 
will be in danger of contamination from construction dust 
containing lead, arsenic, asbestos, and other toxics (photo by 
M. Waldon, no rights reserved).
Abandoned rail yards are typically found to have very high levels of contamination from numerous toxic materials. Among these are lead (paint and batteries), arsenic (widely used by railroads for pest control, weed control, and as a wood preservative in rail ties),  and asbestos (steam engine firebox and boiler). It is believed that very high levels of these substances contaminate the soil in the abandoned rail yard and along the rail line within the I-49 Connector area. Any construction involving vehicular traffic driving across this soil, and any soil excavation will result in liberation of these toxics as dust.

How will toxic dust be monitored within and at the fence line of the Connector project?

How will the workers on-site be protected? Will all workers be required to wear respirators or other protective devices during construction?

How will the public, particularly neighborhood children, be protected from this hazardous toxic dust?

Loss of cultural venue the Feed N Seed

Feed N Seed
The Feen N Seed at 106 N. Grant Street has marked for removal
by the Louisiana DOTD. Photo - M Waldon, no rights reserved.
How can the DOTD mitigate the cultural loss to our community as they destroy the Feed N Seed (http://feednseedlafayette.com/) and other historic and cultural sites in our city? This venue provides the community with diverse offerings such as the performance and release party described in an article in The Advocate titled "Mike Dean to release new live album at Feed N Seed in Lafayette."

The article is available at:
http://theadvocate.com/entertainment/music/15690262-123/mike-dean-to-release-new-live-album-at-feed-n-seed-in-lafayette?fb_action_ids=10205025483350241&fb_action_types=og.comments

Earlier in 2016, a video recorded at the Feed N Seed appeared on NBC's Today Show:
http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/local/acadiana/2016/03/19/lafayette-featured-today-show/82012870/

To see more recent news, Google Lafayette Feed N Seed and click News, or use this link
https://www.google.com/search?q=Lafayette+%22Feed+N+Seed%22&rlz=1CALEAD_enUS617US618&oq=Lafayette+%22Feed+N+Seed%22&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.11996j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#q=Lafayette+%22Feed+N+Seed%22&tbm=nws

Public-Space Transformations

On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, Jason D. Faulk posted a comment on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jasondelanedoubleyou/posts/10209013383668993
In the post, he cites an article in Business Insider titled "11 dramatic public-space transformations captured by Google Street View" which concludes that "cities across the world are becoming less car-oriented and more pedestrian friendly":
 http://www.businessinsider.com/amazing-google-street-view-changes-2016-5

Jason Faulk states:
Most dramatic are the conversions of a street in Minneapolis, and the covering of the open-air recessed freeway in Dallas. All of which beg: if Lafayette, LA wants to spend $700 million to $1 billion on a 5 mile freeway connector, what other potentialities for urban space, that creates value for human beings on the ground, in private and public spaces are possible?‪#‎Y49Lafayette‬ indeed.‪#‎LafayetteConnector‬

What other possibilities for use of this space were considered instead of the urban freeway planned in this project?

This Facebook post generated interesting dialog through comments. I request that DOTD provide a response to this post and its associated comments.