9th September 2021
The Honorable Pete Buttigieg
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590
RE: Opposition to the proposed Lafayette Louisiana I-49 Connector (1)
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Thank you for publicly recognizing the disproportionate impact of urban interstates on minority populations. I was thrilled when you made the statement (2) that “In the Biden-Harris administration, we will make righting these wrongs an imperative.” This is a welcome change.
I am writing to you concerning the proposed Lafayette Louisiana I-49 Connector which is planning to plow 5.5 miles of new interstate through the heart of my city. I could use many adjectives to describe the proposed Lafayette I-49 Connector. A few are: unjust, wasteful, ill-conceived, high risk, anachronistic, and racist. I am asking you to use all of the power and influence of your office to either stop and deauthorize the Lafayette Connector project, or relocate the project’s corridor to the planned Lafayette bypass, the LRX (3).
In Lafayette, there has been articulate bi-partisan and multi-racial opposition to routing I-49 through our city center. Opposition has delayed this project for more than two decades. However, the lure of authorized federal project funds with a low level of local match has led to the expenditure of many tens (maybe hundreds) of millions of federal tax dollars for continuing plan revision within the central city corridor.
Some among us believe that this project is a long-dead “zombie” surviving only on free federal planning and design dollars. Others fear that one day the project may actually move to a construction phase. In either case, the specter of the so-called Connector has caused neighborhood property value to fall and neighborhood business to flee.
The injustice and environmental risk of building along this urban corridor has long been recognized. In their scoping comment on the 1998 DEIS, the USEPA Region 6 pointed out the requirement of Executive Order 12898-Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. They stated that Federal agencies are ordered to analyze (4)
"the environmental effects, including human health, economic and social effects, of federal actions"
Despite many millions of tax dollars spent over more than two decades, these federal requirements identified by EPA in 1998 have never been seriously addressed. I believe that this is because there is no answer. The selected routing of the project corridor was unjust by design.
Thank you for your consideration of my request.
Michael G. Waldon
- Louisiana State Project No. H.004273
- Twitter @PeteButtigieg Dec 20, 2020
- Lafayette Regional eXpressway, http://www.lrxpressway.com/
- Final Environmental Impact Statement, I-49 Connector, Lafayette Louisiana, August 2002, Volume 2, Appendix C, Page C-29