Do you know the environmental assessment phase of this project has been going on since 2006? A Railroad Relocation Plan RFP was distributed in 2006. In that document, it stated that an environmental assessment should address the following issues:
- Purpose and need of project
- Project Description
- Cost and funding source
- Alternatives analyzed
- Social, economic and environmental impacts
- Mitigation measures
- Soil conditions
- Hydraulic analysis to determine impacts to the Flood Plain and a mitigation procedure for the impacts.
- Right of way issues
- Public process and regulatory agency involvement
- Complete noise analysis to determine existing noise levels, prediction of post development noise levels, analysis of traffic noise abatement measures, and preparation of a noise analysis report.
Who knows where the city is heading with their options and proposed solutions. The most talked about solutions for the removal of the tracks in Downtown Sioux Falls are:
- The Y Bridge Alternative over the river at Falls Park
- The Near Downtown Alternative that would seriously impact Cliff Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets
- The Canton Siding Alternative in SE Sioux Falls
The parking of train cars with hazardous materials in residential areas should raise an environmental concern. Trains moving through Sioux Falls neighborhoods that contain hazardous materials raise environmental concerns. The vast majority of motor freight and railroad transportation facilities are considered hazardous waste generators. Is BSNF considered a hazardous waste generator under the EPA regulations?
The possibility of train derailment along any of these routes could create a serious environmental emergency in residential areas surrounding this rail line throughout Sioux Falls considering the increased rail activity to switch engines.
The social and economic impacts to these areas are serious. Property tax values would be impacted; noise levels would be impacted; the serenity now enjoyed in various residential settings in two of the options would forever be changed because of this railroad switching hub of activity.
Major traffic problems when a the heavily traveled north/south route on Cliff Avenue is blocked due to the increased rail activity with the "Near Downtown Alternative." Pushing traffic into surrounding residential areas is no real solution either. Major traffic problems with multiple at-grade crossings in the SE option. Traffic issues abound.
The bottom line is no federal funds can be accessed by the city through the SDDOT without the completion of an environmental assessment. This is a complicated process, no doubt about it. It seems pretty obvious that the Environmental Assessment phase is the roadblock to this project as evidenced by the lack of progress since 2006. If this project is a no go because of insurmountable problems related to the Environmental Assessment, just tell the public and move on.