Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Parents protest extension of FM 2499

BY SARAH BLASKOVICH, Staff Writer - The Flower Mound Leader Star – Wed., July 11, 2007
Stationed around the room at the City Council in Highland Village Tuesday night was a sea of red. The crimson-colored shirts adorned angry parents and residents who opposed the extension of FM 2499 in Highland Village.

The throng brought their children to the meeting, who stood as representatives of who would be harmed most by the road expansion.

Bill Brennan, a resident who spoke on behalf of the group, pleaded with the council to reconsider the FM 2499 traffic plan, which could detrimentally affect the lung function of children who grow up near a major road, he said.

After hearing several comments and watching the 20-some residents who remained in their seats for silent protest, Mayor Dianne Costa thanked the groups for speaking out. She agreed to personally call the Texas Department of Transportation.

One resident’s concern was a personal account of how it would affect his family.

“I’ve got a five-year-old and a newborn,” said Robert Suarez, another resident who spoke at the meeting. “I can’t help but think that 45,000 cars a day [on FM 2499] will affect the air.” The group cited an article published in The Lancet, a newsletter written by the University of Southern California School of Medicine. The study followed 3,600 children for 13 years and found that, on average, children who grow up within 1,500 feet of a major road have a 10 percent decrease in lung function that is irreversible.

“One thousand five hundred feet equates to five football fields,” Brennan said. “[It affects] approximately 900 households [in Highland Village]…Obviously, we would have a serious public health problem.”

The current plan for the northern expansion of FM 2499 is to build a 4-lane road that would extend from FM 407 up through the Highland Shores and Castlewood subdivisions and into Corinth. The city will also consider expanding the road to six lanes in the future.

Traffic statistics from TxDOT show that about 38,000 vehicles passed through the southern sections of FM 2499 in 2005, and they project about 45,000 cars in the future.

Brennan suggested that further investigation is necessary, but reproducing a comprehensive survey similar to the Lancet Study would take another 13 years and would “penalize thousands of children with irreversible lung damage.”

Instead, he asked the council to conduct an environmental impact study and rethink the road’s path, which would run just 25 feet from some homes in the neighborhoods, Brennan said.

“To proceed with current plans for 2499, with no regard to the Lancet Study findings, is to proceed with intent to harm children in Highland Village,” Brennan said. “It really is that straight forward.”
Read more in the Flower Mound Leader Star

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