The subject line is cute and trendy, but ALDOT's email whistles past the graveyard.
On July 10, 2019 I released a report documenting a technical and policy review of the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Study (SDEIS) and transmitted it to ALDOT. In that correspondence I also asked that the public review and comment period be extended. The agency acknowledged receipt of my report and pledged to get back to me.
On July 17, I was interviewed by FMTalk 106.5's Sean Sullivan during the Midday Mobile show's second hour to discuss some of my findings.
Also that day, NBC 15 aired a segment on my report, in which Darwin Singleton hit the most important issues with the SDEIS.
I link these here to show that I didn't just fire and forget. I'll tell anyone who will listen that this project needs to hold up a bit.
To recap: I showed that the SDEIS is fatally flawed and the project should not move forward until key issues are addressed and the technical deficiencies of the SDEIS are corrected.
It is also my belief that ALDOT's allowance of the bare minimum of time permitted for public review of this massive 1,700+ page decision document is unreasonable.
The Myth Busters email released on July 29 attempts to address what ALDOT claims to be "rumors and misinformation" regarding the proposed $3 to $6 toll for the project. Most of those issues have been raised by the grassroots Facebook Group called Block the Mobile Bayway Toll.
Nowhere in the email does the agency address any of the 15 high significance (19 total) issues raised in my report linked above.
I reached out to ALDOT, asking when I could expect a response and was told that I would receive correspondence from them by the end of August. This coincidentally happens to be the time ALDOT seeks to have the SDEIS finalized and a Record of Decision (ROD) entered in the Federal Register.
The ROD formally authorizes the Federal Highway Administration and ALDOT to move forward with planning, design and acquisition. Thus, nothing short of litigation can halt the process.
On July 29, Fox10 TV's Brendan Kirby posted a story on the station's website regarding the surcharge that will be incurred for drivers using the bridge and bayway without a transponder in their vehicles. In his story, Kirby notes that ALDOT has not publicly discussed the surcharge issue.
It also bears noting that my report doesn't mention the surcharge either, because I missed it. The printed SDEIS and its appendices weigh as much as my firstborn child. It's a lot to go through even for a trained eye.
What else lurks in the massive 1,700+ page decision document that we don't know about?
Finalization of the SDEIS needs to be delayed. The public needs more time to sift through the documents and frankly, ALDOT could use the time to address the many fatal issues that we do know about.
Two quick sidenotes:
- I am amazed at the growth of the Facebook group. It was started by Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler, acting in his personal capacity, using his personal Facebook account. In just a couple of months membership in the group has exploded to more than 41,000 members (full disclosure, I am a member). The group is vocal and involved. That's America.
- I am disappointed in the relative silence of Mobile Baykeeper on this project's potentially devastating effects on the human environment. Baykeeper has often been a thorn in the side of agencies running amok with faulty NEPA documentation and the failure of environmental documentation to address important issues. But Baykeeper is very hands off when it comes to how this project affects economic conditions. And economic conditions are very much a part of the human environment. Has Baykeeper gotten too cozy with the business interests who support this project and also sponsor the nonprofit?