Saturday, October 10, 2009

NDOT Continues with Unsustainable Growth Plan in "Project NEON"

Signs of the dysfunctional growth plan in Summerlin (Clark County), Nevada.

A fellow F Street member tells me that the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is continuing with its plans for Project NEON--in its much larger plan for unsustainable growth and continued speculation. I wonder if someday the project will be part of the Great Ruins of Las Vegas tour*, along with the Fontainbleu and Echelon on the Strip. Here's my letter to PBS&J, the contractors for the NDOT project. It is notable that this firm has had several documented ethical slips (Google PBS&J and lawsuits or corruption).

Dear PBS&J,

I have taken a cursory look at the Draft EIS and it looks woefully inadequate and poorly thought out. There seems to be only a superficial awareness of environmental justice or sustainability, just enough to claim you did your job. Please consider the implications of this statement and ensure you consider these comments/questions in your reports. I have saved this record for future litigation purposes.

Please acknowledge receipt.

(1) Has the Environmental Assessment (EA) already been completed? If so, what were the public comments so far? It appears that the public comments so far have been limited--I believe this is due to inadequate notice and education about the impacts, including the negative impacts.

(2) What does NDOT know about ALL future planning in the area and where people of color and working-class people fit into the plan? Is this project based on a particular population and population demographics? If so, are people aware of these numbers and the implications they have on quality of life and sustainability?

I noticed that you had a survey of the impact area but only 20% responded. Can you call this a representative sample?

(3) We also need to know about all the long-term and short-term consequences of the project. Who specifically are the businesses that will be adversely affected by road closures and how will they be compensated? How will construction affect public transportation? Public transportation is already inadequate and plans to improve public transit appear naive.

(4) The FHWA, NDOT, and all other parties need to be fully aware--as part of their Environmental Impact Statement, about the detailed history of the area and how people have color have been previously displaced and impacted by similar projects. This should be part of the Environmental Impact Statement.

(5) I was particularly concerned that low-income housing would be demolished. Displacement happened in 1956 as the I-15 was first planned. In 1957, 200 families were displaced with the promise that new housing would replace it. The housing was not completed until 1960 and it was inadequate for the number of people. So what will happen to any displaced people? And will there be adequate compensation?

(6) Air Quality/Safety: How will this project truly affect air quality in the impact area? Should we trust the calculations or do we need outside sources to look at the public health consequences? Also, does this increase the chance of a hazardous waste spill?

(7) Truthfully, given the costly "F" Street debacle, I think the FHWA, NDOT, RTC, and City of Las Vegas also need to pay outside consultants who can help us with Environmental Justice issues such as Robert Bullard, Henry Holmes, and Don Chen. I have the idea that none of these agencies (or their representatives) are adequately educated in environmental justice, smart growth, transportation equity, planning equity, etc. If there is anyone in this area who is involved in Environmental Justice they should also be considered for consultation.

Dahn Shaulis

*"K" came up with the idea of the Ruins of Las Vegas and thought it would make a great sci-fi novel about the downfall of gambling and unsustainable growth in the Valley. There is, in fact, an online tour of the Great Ruins of Detroit. K's idea came after I told her about Las Vegas as "the last Detroit (a concept UNLV historian Hal Rothman coined)." At the time, the concept pertained to the possibility of a working class community to attain material comfort.

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