Wednesday, August 28, 2019

ALDOT withheld critical information during public review and AFTER the Record of Decision.

Monday night's publication of the Alabama Department of Transportation's reasoning for recommending replacement of the Bayway (PDF) as part of the Mobile River Bridge & Bayway Project came AFTER the Record of Decision (ROD) was signed on August 15, 2019.

It came AFTER the ROD was announced in the Federal Register.

ALDOT claimed in its "Media Response and Project Information – Bayway Height" that:
To comply with Federal regulations, ALDOT determined replacing the Bayway above the 100-year storm surge elevation is in the best interest for the safety of traveling public and is the most cost-effective solution.
As we saw yesterday, this is certainly not the most cost-effective solution. That solution is widening and retrofitting the existing Bayway and providing for its complete replacement 40 years from now (or whenever construction is complete).

The Bayway Alternatives Analysis Matrix that was released with the Media Response fails to reflect the discounted present value of future replacement and is based on the ridiculous assumption that widening and retrofitting the Bayway will not extend its useful life.

The key takeaway is not that the August 26 documents are incorrect. It's that ALDOT didn't release them until the ROD was signed and delivered, an action which completes the NEPA process for the project.

If this information had been known prior to the publication of the Final SEIS and the ROD, members of the public, the news media and local elected officials could have done something with it.

Instead, ALDOT held a number of listening sessions and meetings with local officials. They never told those officials what the regulations really said. They never shared an alternatives analysis matrix. They never told anybody that a structure built to the 50-year standard was not only permissible, but cost-effective.

You can't use critical information you aren't told about.

Instead, Governor Kay Ivey blasted every media outlet in the state with a rambling op-ed, and called opponents' statements "misinformation."

It's not like this information wasn't asked for, either. Click (or tap) the image below:

What this silence tells me is that ALDOT had this information. ALDOT knew this information could change the course of public discussion of the project. ALDOT knew this information might then cause the agency to reevaluate alternative plans.

And ALDOT held this information until after the NEPA process was complete.

I repeatedly asked ALDOT to delay the NEPA process and re-open or extend public review and they repeatedly refused to do so. 

I leave it to my readers to speculate on the reason why.


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