Old Friends and New Faces|
Thanks to all of you who have been following the Hoover Dam Bypass project and to all of you who are new to the discussions. We enjoyed hearing from you at the public hearings held October 13, 14, and 15, 1998.
The October 1998 public hearings were an opportunity for members of the public to formally comment and provide input on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The meetings in Boulder City and Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kingman, Arizona, drew approximately 250 people to share their thoughts and ideas on the DEIS analysis. Each meeting was conducted in an open house format, allowing attendees to discuss the project alternatives and the DEIS with members of the Project Management Team (PMT). The PMT provided a variety of materials ‚ plans and profile for each alternative, visual simulations of each bridge type, a video describing the project, and a computer demonstration of the online DEIS and commenting system. The majority of comments recorded on comment sheets, with the court reporter, and in discussions with PMT members supported the project, favoring one alternative or another. The Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative received the most support. A large number of you noted that traffic congestion at the dam is intolerable and that construction on the project should begin as soon as possible. Others suggested funding the project by assessing a toll. Comments submitted during the comment period will be responded to and included in the Final EIS.
Here are some of your direct comments:
"I question the amount of time and money spent on studying the project. Start construction as soon as possible. I am concerned about hazardous materials getting into the water supply."
"The Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative should address slow traffic from people admiring Hoover Dam."
"Highway 95 would be a better alternative."
"Is there any plan to divert traffic around Boulder City? The traffic through Boulder City will increase with a new, improved crossing."
"I like the Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative because it is the best for environmental, engineering, and safety concerns. Need to start construction soon."
"I support the Gold Strike Canyon Alternative because it will have the least negative visual impact on Hoover Dam."
"Keep the existing road across the dam available for those people who want to see the dam."
"The bridge should be an attractive work of art, similar to the Golden Gate Bridge or Royal Gorge."
"I am against the Gold Strike Canyon Alternative due to impacts on the environment, specifically impacts to trout fishing."
Thank you again for your attendance at the October meetings and for your active interest in this project. Your input has helped the PMT shape and define the solution.
Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative Comes Out on Top
In late December 1998 the PMT reached consensus to proceed with the Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative as the preferred alternative for crossing the Colorado River near the Hoover Dam. The decision to focus on the Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative was based on three key factors: 1) comments received from the public and from local, state, and federal agencies, 2) the consideration of environmental impacts, and 3) the project's purpose and need. The Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative won the majority of support at all levels, has the least amount of environmental impact and the best engineering characteristics of the three "build" alternatives studied, and successfully meets the objectives of the project.
Sugarloaf Mountain Alternative Satisfies Project Objectives
The estimated cost to design and construct this 1,900-foot-long bridge and 3.5 miles of roadway is $198 million. The facility will consist of a four-lane highway and bridge, with a design speed of 60 miles per hour. The proposed bridge crossing is approximately 1,500 feet downstream or south of Hoover Dam.
The PMT studied four alternatives (including the "no-build" alternative) to determine the best crossing of the river from an engineering and operations standpoint, while having the least impact on the surrounding environment. The DEIS presenting this evaluation was completed in September 1998. This document describes the existing conditions, the anticipated impacts of the alternatives studied, and the recommended mitigation measures to minimize the impacts.
Through an open forum, the FHWA solicited comments from experts in the field of transportation, environmental groups, regulatory agencies, and members of surrounding communities.
Moving Toward Another Milestone
The FHWA is leading the efforts to complete the Final EIS on the Hoover Dam Bypass Project along U.S. 93. Before completing the Final EIS, FHWA will coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Historic Preservation Offices in Nevada and Arizona to prepare mitigation plans for any adverse impacts to wildlife and cultural resources, including the Hoover Dam National Landmark. For example, some of the mitigation plans will include defining periods for construction that minimize impact to habitat used for migration and/or mating, developing areas for replacement of any lost habitat, designing erosion control and stormwater runoff plans during construction and long-term operations, and designing a bridge compatible with the historic setting of Hoover Dam. In addition, FHWA is working with the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), to identify and minimize impacts to the power distribution system. Coordination with Native American Indian tribes is continuing to address their concerns about the project. FHWA is committed to developing and implementing appropriate mitigation measures to minimize the impacts of the project.
The Final EIS will be completed this summer. Once comments on the final EIS have been received and addressed, a Record of Decision will be issued. The Record of Decision will officially announce FHWA's course of action. If a "build" alternative is selected in the Record of Decision, final design work can begin this fall. The design of the roadways and the bridge will take approximately 2 to 3 years, with construction of the crossing scheduled to begin in 2002. Construction is expected to be completed by 2007.
Hoover Dam Bypass Budget Update
Funding for the construction of the Hoover Dam Bypass remains a major hurdle. Currently, the Federal government has earmarked $45 million, with Arizona and Nevada committing to $10 million each. Each year these two states will apply for funding from two Federal discretionary programs, the "National Corridor and Development Program" and the "Federal Lands Highway Program." Funds from these two programs are allocated on a year-by-year basis and may not be sufficient to fund the entire balance needed for construction.
In order to address the $133 million shortfall, a "Financial Feasibility Study" is being sponsored by the Arizona Department of Transportation in partnership with the Nevada Department of Transportation. The main components of this study include 1) a comprehensive traffic analysis on U.S. 93, 2) a detailed evaluation of alternative funding mechanisms including tolls, and 3) a recommended financial plan. This study will be complete in June 1999.
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