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In June 2005, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), and the Sierra Club settled a lawsuit filed to prevent the expansion of US 95 in Las Vegas, NV. In the settlement agreement, the FHWA agreed to conduct a study to characterize the emissions of mobile source air toxics (MSATs) and PM2.5 in relation to traffic and meteorological conditions, and measure the dispersion of the emissions from the roadway. These studies, to be conducted in at least two, and up to five sites, are to begin by June of 2007. This progress report required by Part 1, Para. 5 of the settlement agreement, describes the progress to date on the FHWA's fulfillment of its obligations under the agreement.
The settlement agreement required that the FHWA complete a draft detailed study protocol by December 30, 2005. On August 1, 2005, the FHWA received comments from the Sierra Club on its suggested design of the MSAT study to be considered in developing the study protocol. The FHWA provided these comments to its contractor, Battelle, who assessed them for inclusion in the protocol. Battelle then developed the draft detailed protocol, which the FHWA then forwarded on to the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Coordinated Research Council (CRC), the California Department of Transportation, and others for review and comment. The Sierra Club agreed to allow Richard Baldauf, from the EPA, to serve as the outside expert reviewer required by section A.1. of Appendix A to the settlement agreement.
On February 24, 2006, the FHWA held a conference call with the reviewers to discuss the protocol. At this meeting, the FHWA and the Sierra Club agreed to file a stipulation with the court to extend finalization of the protocol until March 1, 2006, to allow for further consideration of the MSAT sampling schedule included in the protocol.
The parties stipulated to another extension of the protocol finalization deadline, this time to April 16, 2006. The parties held a series of teleconferences, with consultation by Battelle, to address the MSAT sampling schedule. A mutually agreeable sampling schedule was selected, and on April 17, 2006, the parties filed an amendment to Appendix A of the settlement agreement with the court, outlining a periodic hourly sampling schedule for the MSATs, with eight samples rotating every 1 in 12 days, and one sample fixed during the morning peak. The parties believe that this schedule will allow for the most robust yet cost-effective sampling regime. Battelle then submitted the finalized protocol to the FHWA including changes based on comments received by all parties during the review process.
With input from the Sierra Club, the FHWA, in August 2005, developed an initial scan of potential study locations that appeared to meet the basic requirements of the settlement agreement. This scan was provided to Battelle, who conducted a thorough analysis of the potential study locations, and expanded the list to include additional options. Battelle then divided the sites into 5 regions, and ranked them within each region based on traffic criteria, meteorological patterns, roadway design, topography, geographical suitability, and other factors relevant to the study. The FHWA is currently assessing these recommendations.
While Battelle was assessing potential sites, the FHWA began an outreach campaign to State DOTs to encourage participation in the MSAT study. The settlement agreement required the FHWA to attempt to secure funding and participation from five states to conduct the MSAT studies. In September 2005, Acting Administrator J. Richard Capka sent a letter to all State DOT Commissioners/Secretaries encouraging them to participate in the study. Cindy Burbank, Associate Administrator for Environment, Planning, and Realty, sent additional correspondences to environmental staff at state DOTs and to the FHWA division offices. Staff at the FHWA contacted the DOTs of the fourteen targeted states with potential study sites identified during the initial scan to encourage participation and to field any questions of the study. The FHWA staff conducted conference calls with interested states to answer questions, and encouraged participation at the annual American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) conferences in October 2005.
Although outreach efforts were extensive, the FHWA was unable to locate any state that was willing to completely fund a study. While several states offered funding and site support, none were able to commit to the roughly $1 million study costs. Consequently, the FHWA began consideration of a pooled fund program with interested States, as well as a federal consortium between the FHWA, EPA, and DOE. The FHWA is currently in the process of developing the pooled fund program to receive monetary contributions from States, and is in discussion with EPA and DOE to establish the federal consortium to pool financial and technical resources. While the settlement agreement only requires the FHWA to conduct one study in the absence of States willing to conduct the studies, the FHWA believes that the State pooled fund approach combined with the federal consortium may provide the opportunity to expand beyond one study, thereby improving the research effort.
The FHWA and the Sierra Club filed a stipulation with the court to extend the site selection deadline until August 15, 2006 to allow for development of the pooled fund program and the federal consortium.
The FHWA believes that the settlement agreement has been collaboratively implemented to date with participation from the Sierra Club, other federal agencies, expert consultants, and interested states. The FHWA will continue working to finalize site selection for the study(ies), and will aim to begin the study(ies) by June 2007, as required by the settlement agreement.