I-95 Advocacy Updates
August 2, 2021
RA BOARD ASKS CANDIDATES' POSITION ON DOT PROJECT #056-0316
A letter to all of the Special Election Candidates for CT District 36 Senate Seat
Dear Mr. Blankley, Mr. Fazio and Ms. Gevanter:
The Riverside Association Board has been following closely the CT Department of Transportation’s plans for Project # 056-316 since they were first presented for public comment on January 21st at a virtual information session. The session had more attendees than any other information session conducted by the DOT, reflecting Greenwich residents’ interest in this $205 million project, which will be the largest dollar highway and bridge capital project in the state for fiscal years 2023, 2024, and 2025.
The takeaway from the virtual session was the DOT not being required, since it isn’t adding additional capacity with this project, to measure noise from the highway or take any steps to remediate the noise. Although 11 locations along I-95 in Greenwich were on the DOT’s top 100 list of priorities for noise abatement in 1995, noise would not be addressed within the scope of this project. Session attendees were astounded since the number of vehicles traveling this stretch of highway is now around 150,000 per day. Simply put, the noise has only increased in the last 25 years.
Along with residents in Old Greenwich, Cos Cob and Byram, our board has mobilized to persuade the DOT to incorporate noise remediation into this massive plan for road resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation, and safety improvements from the New York border through Exit 6. It is a generational project that could improve the quality of life for residents along the highway while increasing the efficiency and safety of the traveling public – which is exactly the DOT’s mission, as described on its website.
The Riverside Association board has supplied Town of Greenwich officials and our state representatives with our research on effective noise reduction techniques employed by other states and countries. Erecting sound barriers along the highway is not the only option; other jurisdictions employ quiet pavement materials and quiet bridge joints to mitigate noise. You can see our research summarized on our website.
Our association has found also, through research, that Connecticut’s noise statutes for protecting its residents are quite strong. However, those same statutes specifically exclude noise from mobile sources including cars and trucks. Incredibly, our state has no legal obligation to protect the many residents who live near highways from the health harming effects of ever-increasing noise.
Our board asks you the following two questions:
Are you willing to work to close the loophole in our state's noise statutes that excludes cars and trucks?
Will you fight for funds needed to include quiet pavement and quiet bridge joints in DOT Project 56-316 through Greenwich?
We will post our letter and your reply on our website, www.riversideassociation.org, on Thursday, August 5th at 5 PM.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Susan Foster and Liz Peldunas
Co-Presidents, The Riverside Association
RESPONSES FROM DISTRICT 36 STATE SENATE CANDIDATES:
CANDIDATE JOHN BLANKLEY:
I am taking the liberty to respond with one email to your questions, as each of your associations have the same concerns and proposed remedies.
The glib and politically expedient answer to every point would be simply YES!
But I want to emphasize that I have real actions and responses to back up my “yes.” For those of you who are not yet aware, ever since I first ran for the senate seat in 2016 and during the time I ran for State Treasurer (2017-2018) I have been championing a major project proposal, a shipping solution to the congestion and pollution problem on our roads, an issue not confined to I-95 incidentally. This proposal would achieve statewide impact. It involves port development in Bridgeport, New London , RI and into Mass so that so-called “Ro-Ro” vessels can transport trucks and containers by sea. Only 2% of US freight goes by sea from port to port – in Europe that number is 40%.
So a major consideration that I have had in mind, in addition of course to the major economic impact of this proposal, has been the reduction in pollution and that includes noise pollution caused by traffic of every kind.
Since I received the first email on 56-316 a few days ago, from Susan, I have contacted the commissioner (whom I know from his time as state senator in Stamford and his time as head of the senate transportation committee) and he has promised me an answer by tomorrow evening or Wednesday.
I thus want you to know that I have had your issue in mind for a long time, even though I live in the back country, that I have a long term solution and that I will be totally supportive of your cause in the short term and the legislative initiatives you propose. One of my campaign slogans for this and all sorts of other public policy matters is that I walk the talk.
CANDIDATE RYAN FAZIO:
I-95 is an important issue that I have been following generally this year, including attending a Riverside Assoc. meeting on the topic and speaking with some of our neighbors who are outspoken about it. Here are five initial thoughts I have on the topic:
-I favor an official state study of the issue at minimum
-The DOT should strive to keep noise to reasonable standards and thresholds in residential areas--not just following statute--esp when they are already doing major repairs
-It's more than reasonable to ask that some share of the $100 billion in infrastructure spending proposed by Dems in CT go to noise abatement for residents in Greenwich, including quiet pavement and other technology, rather than just expensive upstate projects
-To spend money on important quality-of-life projects like noise abatement, CT must spend more prudently on projects around the state. CT should end Project Labor Agreements and other high-cost red tape that can increase the cost of construction by 30% or more
-As a public servant, I strongly believe in listening to and working with constituents, rather than telling them that their problems are "not my area of responsibility". I will always be there to listen and work with our community.
In follow up emails, Ryan added:
As your state senator, I would sponsor a bill that would close the loopholes and apply statutory noise requirements to cars and trucks.
I would also work to secure funding and support for noise abatement from the state and/or the feds, including barriers, quiet pavement, quiet bridge joints, and other mechanisms.
CANDIDATE ALEXIS GEVANTER:
This is a frustrating situation that has an obviously negative effect on the quality of life of residents along the I-95 corridor, one made all the more difficult by the Department of Transportation's refusal to dispense with its "rules," work collaboratively with affected residents, and find common-sense solutions to mitigate the unacceptable level of noise coming from the highway. Know that I stand with you and will advocate for you in Hartford.
My answer to both of your questions is a resounding yes!
The more I have studied this issue, the more in favor I am to both sponsor a bill to close the loophole that currently exists in Connecticut and work to get funding increased by the state and federal government to reduce noise levels along the highway. This includes the use of quiet pavement technology, quiet bridge joints, other noise-reducing materials on roads and bridges, and sound barriers along the affected length of the highway.
There is $90 million in transportation funds coming available through the state and billions more are headed our way when the soon-to-be-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill becomes law in Washington. With respect to state funds, it is my mission to secure the maximum amount of money possible for important infrastructure projects in our area. Southwestern Connecticut, specifically Greenwich and Stamford, bear the brunt of the congestion, noise, and poor air quality along the I-95 corridor. As the gateway to and through our state, we deserve, demand and I am determined to secure the funds needed to address these issues, among others.
In partnership with our outstanding federal delegation, including Congressman Himes, we will work to deliver the federal dollars we need down here to address our long-neglected transportation projects.
We have waited long enough. There is money to make these projects happen. It's time to get them done.
February 21, 2021
The Riverside Association asks DOT Commissioner Giulietti:
WHEN WILL THE DOT FOLLOW STATE AND FEDERAL NOISE LAWS?
An open letter to the DOT Commissioner appeared in the Greenwich Time on February 21, 2021
Dear Commissioner Giulietti:
Residents of Greenwich, especially those who live near I-95, have been pleased to learn that improvements are scheduled for the stretch of the highway that runs through the town. Slated to begin in 2022, the upcoming project (0056-0316) addresses congestion and safety issues on the highway, exit ramps, and the Mianus River bridge.
Residents are less than pleased, however, with the limited focus of the project. For years, Greenwich has seen highway traffic increase to an average of 150,000 vehicles per day. Pleas for the inclusion of noise mitigation, such as sound barriers and ‘quiet’ pavement, have been summarily dismissed. Since the project does not qualify as “Type 1,” asserts Serge Nikulin, Connecticut’s Department of Transportation Project Engineer, a noise analysis is not triggered, “no new noise walls are proposed,” and “Unfortunately, a specific pavement composition to reduce tire noise is not proposed under this project.”
The unified wail of frustration at this response almost exceeded the noise from the highway. Even acknowledging that the guidelines outlined in Title 23 (which governs highway projects of this magnitude) must be followed to ensure compliance and consistency, this decision is short sighted. On a closer read of Title 23, one finds this section of the legislation:
§771.133 Compliance with other requirements.
(a) The combined final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) / ROD (Record of Decision), final EIS or FONSI (Findings of No Significant Impact) should document compliance with requirements of all applicable environmental laws, executive orders, and other related requirements.
This portion of the law continues, and requires that, if full compliance is not possible by the time the project is presented, the project must nonetheless reflect consultation with the appropriate agencies and provide reasonable assurance that environmental requirements will be met (Source: efcr.gov).
If 23 CFR 772 disqualifies the project for noise remediation, it appears that 23 CFR 771.133 supersedes and requires that the project conform to other existing environmental laws and requirements. Laws such as the Quiet Communities Act of 1978, The Clean Air Act-Title IV Noise Pollution, The Noise Control Act of 1972 and Connecticut’s State Policy 22a-67 all come into play. To quote Connecticut’s State Policy 22a-67, “The primary responsibility for control of noise rests with the state and the political subdivisions thereof … to establish a means for effective coordination of research and activities in noise control.”
Mr. Nikulin’s response and the existing project proposal’s failure to address existing violations of federal and state mandates regarding noise are a disservice to the residents of the community. The state cannot hide behind a narrow section of 23 CFR 772.
If the current traffic of 150,000 a day is not enough to trigger consideration of excessive noise, what is? Do Greenwich residents wait for traffic to increase to 200,000? 250,000? At what point will Connecticut step in to fulfill its obligations for noise control under existing federal and state legislation? Greenwich residents deserve a comprehensive answer.
The Riverside Association Board
DOT RESPONSE FROM THE BUREAU OF POLICY AND PLANNING:
Dear Ms. Susan Foster and Ms. Liz Peldunas:
This correspondence is in response to your email to Commissioner Giulietti dated February 21, 2021, regarding State Project 56-316, which outlines concerns regarding traffic noise levels along Interstate 95 (I-95). Your email also references Title 23, and the Clean Air Act – Title IV Noise Pollution, Noise Control Act, Quiet Communities Act, as well as Chapter 442 of the Connecticut General Statue, which are addressed below. The Commissioner has asked that I respond to you on his behalf as our Noise Compliance team resides within the Bureau of Policy and Planning.
In reference to Title 23, all Department of Transportation (Department) projects undergo screening to determine the potential for environmental impact and the appropriate class of action and level of documentation under 23 CFR 771.115 The project was reviewed and determined by the Department to be consistent with the actions listed in 23 CFR 771.117(c)(26), (c)(27) and (c)(28) and is therefore eligible for a Categorical Exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The regulations of 23 CFR 771.133 are not applicable to projects that are eligible for a Categorical Exclusion.
Additionally, all Department projects are reviewed in accordance with 23 CFR 772 and the Department’s Traffic Noise Abatement Policy for Projects Funded by the Federal Highway Administration dated May 2017 (Noise Policy). These regulations establish the procedures for noise analyses and other matters. A link to the Department’s Noise Policy can be accessed here:
Noise analyses are required to be performed for projects which meet the criteria of a Type 1 project found in 23 CFR 772.5. The scope of this project, which consists of resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation and safety modifications, does not add traffic capacity to I-95. Therefore, this project did not meet the Type I project criteria for conducting a noise analysis, and consequentially, noise levels are not analyzed.
The Clean Air Act Title IV – Noise Pollution, the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978 each represent Federal acknowledgment that noise should be regulated. Today State and local jurisdictions perform that duty. In particular, the Noise Control Act of 1972, as amended by the Quiet Communities Act of 1978, states that the “primary responsibility for control of noise rests with State and local governments” (See 42 USC § 4901(a)(3)). State and local control is reinforced by the fact that the EPA, which used to administer all three acts through its Office of Noise Abatement and Control, phased out that office in 1982 and has offered no substitute office since.
In regard to Chapter 442 Noise Pollution Control of the Connecticut General Statutes, Section 22a-69 states that “the Commissioner [of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)] may develop, adopt, maintain and enforce a comprehensive state-wide program of noise regulation”. However, Section 22a-69-1.7(i) excludes mobile sources of noise from these regulations. The applicable noise provisions for this resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation and safety modification project, are the FHWA regulations referenced above at 23 CFR 772.
If you would like to arrange a virtual meeting or telephone call to further discuss our noise program or State Project 56-316, please feel free to contact me, and I can work with our project teams to arrange for a time to do so. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, many of us are teleworking and I am most easily reached via email at Kimberly.Lesay@ct.gov but am also periodically in the office where I can be reached at (860) 594-2001.
Very truly yours,
Kimberly C. Lesay
Bureau of Policy and Planning
cc: Representative Harry Arora, Representative Kimberly Fiorell