Friday, September 28, 2007

HV Parents Group refutes TxDOTs conclusions

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - September 30, 2007
Citizens in Highland Village (Denton County) have consistently opposed the current route selected for section 4 of FM2499. FM2499 is to connect with I-35 near SH121.

Orginally it was to be a two-lane oil top road. Now it is planned as a 4 lane road with plans to expand it to 6 lanes. Much of it will be elevated 11 feet above playgrounds and residents. Over 1000 children in Highland Village will live within 1500 feet of this road. It is anticipated to have traffic counts exceeding 45M cars daily which is the threshold which scientific studies find results in irreserviable lung function in children. Schools, playgrounds, recreation areas, and day cares are located within 1500 feet of this proposed route.

It will cut through residential neighborhood, federal wetlands, recreation areas. The current route is the only one which cuts across three tributaries of Lake Lewisville. Lake Lewisville is the drinking water source for Dallas and Denton counties. The secion of the lake where these bridges will be constructed is the part of the lake which already registers excessively high MTBE. MTBE is a fuel additive which cannot be filtered out of water with currently available technology. Because of Federal Legislation sponored by Joe Barton, manufacturers of MTBE are protected from envionmental liability.

The current route selected is the most costly route. The budget for this project was recently doubled! The most environmentally dangerous route requires doubling the budget because of the necessity of constructing costly bridges over Lake Lewisville's fragile ecosystem.

John Mullens, a resident of Highland Village who has joined with his neighbors (Highland Village Parents Group) in opposing this route responded to TxDOT's attorney.

Ms. Noble (Texas Dept. of Transportation),

Thank you for your response on September 21 (attached) to the concerns of the Highland Village Parent Group. Although your response was not timely, we do appreciate receiving it. As you probably expect, we do not agree with the conclusions of your letter and have commented below.

First, however, we would like to comment on the story in today's front page of the Dallas Morning News describing the financial woes suffered by TXDOT.

TXDOT can save $47 million by permanently canceling the section 4 portion of FM 2499 (probably more as costs continue to escalate). The majority of citizens in Highland Village do not want this highway, and are very vocal about it. At the public hearings there were 3015 written opposing comments submitted, and 1186 opposing signatures on petitions (all voters ).

Only a few politicians want this highway and only God knows why as we have provided them with the USC/Lancet Study (as well as supporting studies/reports), so they are fully aware of the significant lung damage our children will suffer.

We ask TXDOT to direct these scarce funds to more worthy projects where the citizens actually need and desire the transportation improvements, as opposed to wasting the money to satisfy a few. At the very minimum, a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) should be performed to insure the safety of our children. Most people with knowledge of the circumstances know that a full EIS will result in the project being terminated or re-routed.

Following are our comments about your response (attached PDF file) to our recent e-mails:
1) You state "The Lancet Study is one of several recent studies that come to the conclusion that there are potential health effects from living within close proximity of a roadway. However, the results of the Lancet Study are specific to the study conditions."

We believe you are over-complicating this issue. There are highways in the USC/Lancet Study in California with traffic similar to FM 2499. The vehicles are the same, and emissions actually are significantly reduced in California per their emissions laws. So, you have similar highways with similar vehicles, obviously you would have similar results: average 10%, irreversible, lung damage for children who grow up within 1500 feet of a major road. The study conditions all wash out, we are not that different in Texas than California (these are two of the largest states in the U.S.), and actually we should even increase the 10% lung damage expected in Texas to account for the more dangerous emissions levels (CA has the strictest emissions laws in the country).

2) You state that "The Clean Air Act requires EPA to 'establish air quality criteria for pollutants that accurately reflects the latest scientific knowledge useful in indicating the kind and extent of all identifiable effects on public health or welfare…'". The latest scientific knowledge is the USC/Lancet Study, as well as numerous other studies that validate the common sense that a highway 25 feet next to a house is harmful to children.

Why can't TXDOT be a leader in environmental protection instead of following the EPA who is obviously not able to protect our kids? We ask you to use your own judgment in this matter.

3) You say that "TXDOT takes human health very seriously". We do not believe this when you will not even suggest a full EIS to protect our children from the conclusive results from the USC/Lancet and numerous other studies. To the taxpayers it appears that TXDOT does not take human health seriously at all.

3) You describe the complicated process that TXDOT goes through in conjunction with the EPA to determine effects on human health, but admit these processes are not effective. We taxpayers are not concerned with the reasons why you cannot protect our children, we are only interested in results. We are also not interested in EPA guidelines. If EPA guidelines allow inflicting lung damage on children, then those guidelines must be fixed and not followed. The "I am only following orders" rationale is not acceptable.

4) You discuss a loophole that allows TXDOT to ignore the published policy in your environmental manual that typically requires an EIS in cases of highways of four or more lanes in a new location. We find it completely unacceptable that you would not apply your "normal" standards to a case as serious as this where children's health is at risk.

5) The City of Flower Mound website clearly describes the intention to convert section 4 to six lanes. It states that "Sufficient right-of-way would be acquired to allow for its eventual expansion to an ultimate six-lane divided urban arterial." Here is the link

6) We would like the name of the consulting firm that you have hired so we may verify their independence.

In summary, we hope that this consulting firm and the FHWA will reach the correct conclusion that their most important role is to protect our children, and therefore recommend that a full and thorough EIS be prepared prior to any construction taking place. We still are hopeful that TXDOT will step up and take a leadership role in protecting our children.

John Mullen
Highland Village Parent Group

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