P.O. Box 2153
Rocky Mount, VA 24151
1828 Brandon Ave. SW
Roanoke, VA 24015
P.O. Box 443
Boones Mill, VA 24065


April 25, 2001
Immediate Release

David Hurt, VAR, (540) 721-7406
Mark Barker, BREDL, (540) 342-5580
Gerry Slotnick, FFC, (540) 334-2997

EPA has Environmental Objections with I-73 DEIS

Agency recommends a supplement to VDOT document

Citing major concerns that were not addressed by the Interstate 73 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recommended a supplement to the DEIS be prepared to address significant issues.

In a letter to the Federal Highway Administration, the EPA expressed objections with the limited alternatives studied; the project’s purpose and need; traffic projections; primary, secondary and cumulative environmental impacts; and air quality impacts in the Roanoke area.

The EPA says the I-73 DEIS failed to study an upgrade to the existing U.S. 220 and did not contain sufficient information to make an assessment which would justify the need to construct a new highway.

David Hurt of Virginians for Appropriate Roads said, “"The EPA's comments reinforce what's been obvious all along - I-73 is a sprawl developer's dream road that carries enormous fiscal, social, and environmental costs with little benefit for the public. The EPA's comments also expose VDOT's shameless bias towards a new-terrain highway by pointing out the complete lack of attention to 220 upgrades.”

Gerry Slotnick of Friends of Franklin County stated, “TSM information wasn't even available at the public hearings, although detailed maps and glossy artist's conceptions were unveiled for every new-terrain option.” Slotnick continued, “In short, the EPA is telling VDOT that I-73's negative impacts are clear and substantial, its benefits are questionable, and other options need to be examined."

The EPA assigned the I-73 DEIS a rating of “Environmental Objections (EO) Insufficient Information (2).” EPA rates each Environmental Impact Statement on the adequacy of the document to include sufficient information to make informed decisions.

The EO rating means the “EPA review has identified significant environmental impacts that must be avoided in order to provide adequate protection for the environment. Corrective measures may require substantial changes to the preferred alternative or consideration of some other project alternative (including the no action alternative or a new alternative.) EPA intends to work with the lead agency to reduce these impacts.”

The Category 2 designation means “the draft EIS does not contain sufficient information for the EPA to fully assess the environmental impacts that should be avoided in order to fully protect the environment, or the EPA reviewer has identified new reasonably available alternatives that are within the spectrum of alternatives analyzed in the draft EIS, which could reduce the environmental impacts of the action.”

“The benefit of improved future traffic conditions does not appear to outweigh its environmental impacts,” commented EPA in the Jan. 12 letter. Regarding the VDOT Level of Service (LOS) projections for the year 2020, EPA said “this is a marginal improvement over the no-build condition. Moreover, since an upgrade of the existing Rt. 220 was not studied, the benefits of this type of facility improvement on LOS are not known.”

EPA further commented that the cumulative and secondary impacts from a new terrain I-73 have the “potential to be very significant” since between “61 percent and 76 percent of the land within one mile of each proposed new interchange is currently not planned for commercial or residential development.”

“In addition, this proposal will increase vehicle miles traveled in the study area by as much as 58 percent. This will result in additional pollutant loadings to the Roanoke Valley,” the letter stated.

Mark Barker of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League said, “We are pleased that EPA has recommended VDOT complete an emission analysis to assure the protection of Roanoke’s air quality and the visibility in the James River Face Wilderness Area. VDOT may not be concerned about Roanoke’s air quality, but we are.”

EPA also pointed out that the I-73 DEIS failed to study an upgrade to the existing Rt. 220 which “limits the range of alternatives considered and leaves many questions unanswered...”

If VDOT decides to ignore these recommendations, they will meet with the CTB to choose a preferred corridor for I-73 as early as May 17.

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More info: Press Release and EPA letter in .pdf format
EPA letter (.jpg): page 1 , page 2 , page 3 , page 4 , page 5 , page 6 , page 7