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. This progress report, required by Part 1, Paragraph 5 of the settlement agreement, describes the progress over the past year on the FHWA's fulfillment of its obligations under the agreement.
Last year, an Inter-agency Agreement between FHWA and EPA was formally signed establishing the joint research project. The FHWA and EPA continue to work together to initiate the collection of data on MSATs in the "near roadway environment" to meet the requirements of the Settlement Agreement.
Funding continues to be an issue since the project costs are higher than originally anticipated and the costs associated with planning and implementing the study have escalated in some cases. Unplanned costs such as adding supplemental equipment and burying the electrical service lines have increased the Las Vegas site costs. Other cost increases may occur once the data collection phase begins. It is important to note this issue since this has been a recurring concern. Once the Las Vegas Site is operational, methods to reduce and control project costs must be found if additional sites are to be studied, although the Detroit monitoring appears to remain viable.
The FHWA has obtained pooled funding commitments totaling $1,014,000, including the $700,000 contribution required of Nevada DOT by the settlement agreement. The EPA had agreed to provide $1.3 million in funding in addition to staff and contract support, while the FHWA is to provide $1 million in funding. These combined resources total $3,314,000 and should allow studies to be conducted in Las Vegas, NV and Detroit, MI, and potentially a third site in Raleigh, NC, if funding permits (additional funds are still being sought).
Much of the focus of the FHWA's efforts on this project over the past year was on selecting the location within Las Vegas at which to conduct the studies. A number of site visits and meetings were held in Las Vegas and Raleigh, NC regarding the Las Vegas monitoring location. The I-15 site was then selected and equipment was procured. The EPA and FHWA staff worked to obtain needed property access and consider other issues relevant to the siting of monitors at this location.
The project is currently awaiting delivery of the instruments and establishment of electrical power. Installation of electrical power has taken longer than originally anticipated due to the inability to use aerial lines as planned. Permits for burying the electrical power lines have been approved and arrangements have been made to do the work. A few other permit applications are being processed. This has added significantly to the cost and delayed the start of the monitoring. Due to property access constraints at the I-15 location, the final placement of monitoring instruments is along the Union Pacific Rail Road (RR) right-of-way, and consequently aligned at the interstate overpass. We considered the potential affects of the overpass, and while we don't think the alignment presents a major problem we recognize that it is a departure from what was originally envisioned for the study. Several air quality monitors will be added to assist in defining the impact of the non-uniform grade at the site and provide supplemental data useful in defining dispersion characteristics. To that end, we are in the process of incorporating additional instruments.
The current schedule places the data collection phase to begin this summer. This is based on the delivery of the instruments and the establishment of power at the site. Delays in either could postpone the initiation of data collection but there is no indication of a problem at this time.
We also continue to engage in discussions with the Michigan FHWA Division Office, State DOT and DEQ, as well as SEMCOG to find location in South Eastern Michigan to do the second site. They have been particularly helpful in searching for potential sites in the Detroit area to site the monitors. During the week of June 9 -13, we conducted a site visit to the area.
The FHWA and the EPA believe it is possible to conduct a third study at that site, provided that sufficient funding is available. This study would be conducted after the Las Vegas and the Detroit studies are completed.
Over the past year, the FHWA has worked extensively with the EPA and the Sierra Club to finalize the monitoring location in Las Vegas and to get the monitoring phase operational. We look forward to beginning monitoring at the Las Vegas site in the near future.
If you would like a more information, please let us know and we will arrange for a teleconference between FHWA, EPA, Sierra Club and any interested party that may be warranted.