Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Parent Group sues Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation and TX Transportation Commission

By HVPG - Higland Village, TX - Dec. 11, 2007
The Highland Village Parents Group (HVPG) filed a lawsuit Monday, Dec. 10, to prevent the construction of FM 2499 Section 4 until it satisfies the standards required by an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Planned as a new construction four lane state highway to ultimately be build-out to six lanes, Section 4 of FM 2499 cuts.directly through residential sub-divisions and federal parklands and is planned to cross three tribitutaries which feed into Lake Lewisville (drinking water source of Dallas and Denton Counties). Only an Environmental Assessment (EA) has been prepared for the project, which does not fully consider the tremendous negative impacts on human health, and is incomplete in many other areas as well.

Faith Chatham, co-founder of DFW Regional Concerned citizens and editor of About Air and Water states: "TxDOT and the EPA have fast tracked environmental studies on this road at the request of a handful of local Denton county officials who ignored the concerns of residents. In 2003 when public hearings were held on this road, the fire marshal closed the building because more citizens showed up to protest than the hall could accommodate. When the meeting was rescheduled, about 1000 citizens registered to testify. Yet their outcry was not given serious weight by elected officials and transportation bureaucrats. I am especially concerned that the route selected is the most costly to construct and the route which crosses the most vulnerable water / wetlands. The section of Lake Lewisville which has registered the highest concentrations of toxic gasoline additives is where TxDOT proposes building three bridges to cross tribitaries of Lake Lewisville. Currently there is no technology which will remove this additive from drinking water and Denton and Dallas County residents get their drinking water from Lake Lewisville. I am thankful that the Highland Village Parents Group is continues to press for full environmental impact studies. This route is controversial yet TxDOT has refused to classify it controversial in order to fast track construction."

The suit alleges that the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Commission (Defendants) were deficient in giving environmental clearance to the project, and in their failure to conduct a more intensive environmental study based on the significant health, air and noise pollution and safety impacts to residents, and in using federal recreational parklands, wildlife management areas and wetlands. Additionally, the Defendants provided clearance while ignoring the opposition of thousands of citizens of Highland Village and surrounding communities (97% of written comments opposed the project at the public hearings).

Recent studies report the significant negative impacts caused by increased ambient air pollution from vehicular emissions to the health of people living in close proximity to a major road like this one. These impacts include increased incidents of lung and heart disease. Children, in particular, are at great risk of suffering substantial, irreversible, long-term lung damage by living and playing in such close proximity (see recent 13 year USC School of Medicine Study published in January 2007 describing permanent lung damage to children growing up within 1500 feet of a major road).

Increased noise levels will exceed federal standards in many areas. Highland Village is a quiet neighbor-oriented community that will suffer from the amplified noise levels. The wildlife and people utilizing the federal park and wetlands will also suffer. The Defendants recognize the noise impacts, but completely fail to mitigate for these impacts by not including sound barriers in the design.
Families living in homes, many within 25 feet of the Right-of-Way, and residents utilizing public parks and the community pool directly abutting the right-of-way, will be placed in a very dangerous condition. Some portions of the highway will be elevated up to 15 feet above grade, raising significant safety concerns about accidents causing vehicles to leave the roadway and hazardous material spills into homes, yards and parks. Recent tanker truck accidents on I-35 and in Everett, Mass. are examples of the serious threat to these families and homes.

The route of the highway will cross sensitive emergent wetlands, recreational parklands and wildlife management areas. The Defendants failure to thoroughly consider alternative routes is clearly in violation of federal law which specifies that if feasible alternate paths for a highway exist, they must be used (there were ten original alternatives).

The Defendants fail to follow their own guidelines by refusing to carry out an EIS for the highway project. According to the Defendants’ own published rules and policies, highways such as FM 2499, Section 4 typically require an EIS, especially when there is significant controversy and federal parklands are involved.
The unique quality of life present in Highland Village, the primary reason people move to Highland Village, will be devastated by the construction of FM 2499, Section 4.

Highland Village Parents Group can be reached at hvparentgroup@gmail.com, or by phoning Roxane Thomas at 817-832-3319.

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