Monday, June 22, 2020

Ozone and the I-49 Connector: Why should we care?

DOTD I-49 Urban Route.
Recent local news articles on KATC and in The Acadiana Advocate  reported an LDEQ warning that on June 19 Lafayette would have high levels of ozone. LDEQ declared an Ozone Action Day for Lafayette. Why should we care about ozone?

First, high ozone levels are a risk to health, particularly among our most vulnerable citizens. Those who work or exercise outdoors are also at risk.  

Second, Lafayette has in the past been close to non-attainment for ozone, while Baton Rouge has been out of compliance. Currently all of Louisiana is considered to be in compliance with the federal standard of 70 parts-per-billion for ozone. Lafayette air pollution has improved, but there are continuing calls to make the ozone standard more protective. Non-attainment matters to Lafayette's future economic growth which could be impacted by restrictions and new requirements placed on any industry wanting to locate here. Beyond that, the most sought after companies looking for a new location are far less likely to choose a city with recognized poor air quality. Bottom line: our current good air quality is a plus for Lafayette to recruit new economic development. 

Finally, what has ozone got to do with the I-49 Connector? If you listen to Louisiana DOTD and their consultants who are writing the I-49 Environmental Impact Statement you might think ozone and air pollution have nothing to do with their plan. But, our biggest source of ozone in Lafayette is from cars. Common sense tells us that the proposed elevated interstate through the heart of our city is going to concentrate heavy traffic on city streets that lead to and from the interstate. Further, much local traffic will avoid using the elevated highway because of its limited points of access and exit. Those cars and trucks will be forced to sit in traffic on city streets. And, if the Connector has tolls, expect even more traffic forced down to city streets. Expect troubling increases in ground level ozone.

LRX Bypass Corridor Options (DOTD)
This doesn't have to happen! The proposed Lafayette Metro eXpressway (LRX) would allow through traffic and hazardous cargo to bypass the central city. For almost two decades we the taxpayers have funded planning for the LRX bypass. It is time to act and choose this alternative. The LRX would draw traffic away from easily congested urban streets and save local tax monies as city street expansions are no longer needed. The LRX would improve rather than worsen ozone pollution in Lafayette. If the I-49 Connector is built, we will be stuck with its induced traffic congestion and resulting bad air in our city for decades. Let's just not go there!