Project does not follow ODOT rules

Submitted by Martha Eakin on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 23:12.

Thank you, Ed, for your detailed analysis, without which the average citizen, even one who is interested in ODOT’s I-90 upgrade, may just read the Plain Dealer reports and never question the propriety of  where we, the public, stand at this point in the process. As you have pointed out, ODOT is not following its own Planning Development Process.  Even without reading the many paged PDP manual, which is available online at ODOT’s site, a little logical thinking would suggest that something is amiss if the public comment  period ends after, and the economic impact studies are not completed before, ODOT has selected the engineering firm to work on possible bridge designs for its preferred alignment (All emphases above and following are mine.)

  Under “Major Projects”in the PDP manual consider the following points:  

203.2: All planning studies must include a cost analysis for each reasonable alternative considered. This is needed both to compare the alternatives and to identify alternatives to be eliminated because they are cost prohibitive based on a realistic understanding of what funding may be available……    

 203.3: ODOT strongly encourages presenting the alternative comparisons in a matrix format. This format has been demonstrated to be easy to understand by most stakeholders. A matrix format includes presenting the alternatives on one axis and the evaluation criteria on the other axis. The cells either contain numerical or color-coded comparisons indicating relative differences for each criteria. Documentation during the alternative identification activities identifies all the considered alternatives, describes the no-build alternative, explains why alternatives were eliminated from further consideration, presents estimated costs of the considered alternatives, and recommends the conceptual alternative solution(s) to be considered for further evaluation. The alternatives documentation should:

Identify all alternatives considered

Describe the no-build alternative

Present very general estimated costs of      alternatives considered

Explain why alternatives were eliminated

    204.6 Document the Decision Making Process and Recommendations The Planning Study Report, produced during this step, is intended to provide the formal record of the decision-making process and the rationale for the decisions and recommendations made throughout the planning process. The Planning Studies Report documents how and why decisions were made, the public involvement process, and the process and rationale justifying the narrowing of alternatives.

  207.1 Preferred Alternative Step (20)6 concluded with the recommendation of a preferred alternative after a review of the public and agency comments ...... Step 7 continues with analysis and development of the preferred alternative. The feasible alternatives may be revised in response to comments and subsequently the alternatives evaluation matrix from Step 6 may be updated. Based on agency reviews, public comments, and an evaluation of environmental impacts throughout Step 7, a final preferred alternative is recommended by the end of Step 7. The District and OES in conjunction with FHWA determine the final preferred alternative. All steps of the decision- making rationale must be documented.

  As Ed has stated in his letters to various officials, ODOT  has failed to explain adequately why a possible S. alignment was removed from consideration. We have been told that the Greek Orthodox Church would have to be removed (ODOT’s drawing with a freeway clipping off a corner of the church was perfect for fanning anxiety.), but this is simply not true. The most recent CPD article(2/5/06) on the subject says our local leaders were “especially concerned that a southern alignment would have meant rerouting 128,000 daily commuters because the current bridge would have to be shut down during much of the construction(another anxiety producing idea).  I don’t believe either of these one sentence explanations qualifies as documented rationale for why alternatives were eliminated.

  If you take a minute to go to ODOT’s web site and go to the area devoted to the “Opportunity Corridor”, you will see that a “Conceptual Alternatives Evaluation Matrix” was posted on October10, 2005.  Where is this matrix, called for in the PDP, for the I-90 project?   I know these are two different projects, but the principles of the PDP manual do not, or should not, change.   The minutes for the June 05  OC meetings describe this exchange between Millie Carballo (Cleveland Industrial Retention Initiative) and Mike Armstrong (Federal Highway Administration- Columbus office):

   “ Millie Caraballo of the Cleveland Industrial Retention Initiative (CIRI) asked if all the alternatives must be studied equally. She said she thought Alternative One was a waste of time. Mike Armstrong said yes, all alternatives have to be looked at equally and added that the benefits have to outweigh the takings/impacts.”  

Certainly  a new bridge for I-90 is a bigger project than the Opportunity Corridor,  yet we haven’t been provided with the documentation to show that all alternatives were considered equally.

  The 2/5/06 Plain Dealer editorial states that Ohio has promised to seek and incorporate input from individual citizens as well as community and arts groups.  Given the examples above and all the information which Ed Hauser has posted, why should we believe this?  To be believable and reach a positive consensus, ODOT needs to review its manual and get on track.

Thanks for adding your voice... next!

All very good points, Martha. For this process to now be set on the right track, literally 1,000s of good people (and leaders) in NEO need to speak up, like you and Ed, discussing alternatives. Please feel free to add comments here, and at http://neobridge.net