Thursday, February 11, 2021

Pine Street Coalition Demands Reopening of Environmental Justice Process, Allow Consideration of Alternative Designs as Per Regulations

TO: FHWA, VTrans, City of Burlington FROM: Pine Street Coalition DATE: 02-11-2021 RE: Demand to Re-open Environmental Justice LSDSEIS Comment Period on the Burlington, Vermont Project MEGC-M5000(1) Southern Connector/Champlain Parkway Project and Present Alternatives for Public Comment The Pine Street Coalition, on behalf of itself and its members, hereby demand that you re-open the comment period on the LSDSEIS Environmental Justice review of the Burlington, Vermont Project Megc-M5000(1) Southern Connector/Champlain Parkway Project Chittenden County, Vermont. The reasons for re-opening the comments include, but are not limited to, the following: 1. The Covid-19 pandemic gave rise to a governmentally-declared state of emergency in the State of Vermont which encompassed the comment period time, curtailing participation, particularly by affected persons intended to be protected by environmental justice principles. On March 13, 2020, Vermont governor Phil Scott declared a state of emergency relative to the Covid-19 pandemic. That state of emergency continues through the present time. The state of emergency impacts every aspect of citizens’ participation in civil society. Child care and transportation that enable in-person participation in hearings is restricted. As noted in the letter of Steve Goodkind appended to the Pine Street Coalition comments, this marks the first time that a NEPA document published for comment for a Burlington public works project was not made available in hard copy at City Hall and public libraries; it was only available online. A December 2020 Vermont Department of Health Data Brief details the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Vermonters who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Chittenden County had the highest rate of Covid-19 among BIPOC communities, at a rate much higher than the state average. June and July 2020 represented the peak instances of Covid-19 cases among BIPOC Vermonters. https://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/COVID-19-among-BIPOC-Data-Brief.pdf The LSDSEIS – a 556 page technical document -- was digitally distributed for public comment on July 10, 2020. The only public hearing on it was held – online via a web conferencing application, with a small number of in-person seats available to persons who preregistered – on July 29, 2020. Comments closed on August 24, 2020. This time period coincides with the peak instances of Covid-19 cases among BIPOC people in Chittenden County. Families were preoccupied with keeping their loved ones alive, accommodating schooling and working from home, loss of work and income, and profound disruption to the fabric of their lives. Despite the highly unusual circumstances of a state of emergency -- in which in-person gatherings were strictly limited, where hard copies of the document were not available, in which the only access to the documents was online, and access to the hearing was either online or required advance online registration (only one person, Pine Street Coalition member Steve Goodkind, attended in person) while the low-income people of the affected community have lower rates of internet access and were, in many instances, coping with working from home and children at home, and in which the affected environmental justice community was disproportionately affected by Covid just at the time of this hearing – you afforded only the minimally-prescribed 45 day comment period. This was a time for expanding the comment period beyond the minimally-prescribed 45 days and for taking other steps to ensure that voices of the affected community were heard, such as making paper copies available on request. The affected Black, Brown and immigrant community members were unable to meaningfully participate in the LSDSEIS comment period within the timeframe and under the logistical constraints presented. We therefore demand that you re-open the comment period for a period of at least 60 days, and take reasonable steps to make the LS DSEIS available in hard copy to members of the community, and engaged in further measures to ensure that the voices of the affected community are heard. 2. The presentation made at public hearing by FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington stated that these agencies had already made both a determination regarding Environmental Justice and selection of a single project design prior to accepting comments. No alternatives to either the project design or the environmental justice determination were presented Only one public hearing was held on the LSDSEIS, on July 29, 2020, via Zoom (presenters at the ‘outreach meeting’ in September 2019 did not even advise the public that the purpose of the meeting was to accept comments pertaining to environmental justice). At that one public hearing, a PowerPoint presentation was made to the public prior to acceptance of comments. That PowerPoint presentation states, at Slide 36: The FHWA, VTrans and City of Burlington announced its determination of no disproportionate impact BEFORE accepting any comments from the public, and a month prior to the close of the comment period. Such process turns NEPA on its head. The fundamental objective of NEPA is to ensure that the decisionmaker is informed by the NEPA process including public comment prior to making a decision. Here, the FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington announced its decision before you had heard from the people whose input is mandated by NEPA and Environmental Justice policies. The announcement of that determination precluded consideration of any other alternative – and indeed, no alternatives whatsoever were presented as part of the LS DSEIS process. Despite recission of the 2010 RoD, and despite the fact that the purpose of Environmental Justice review is to obtain comment from the affected communities on the impact of the various alternatives, the public was presented only with what is designated the “preferred alternative” in the LS DSEIS. No information was shared, and no comments sought, on any alternatives other than this one “preferred alternative”. Agencies “must, in fact, consider all of the alternatives discussed in an EIS.” 40 CFR §1505.1(e) and CEQ FAQs #1. The object of identifying a particular alternative as the “preferred alternative” is so that the public can be aware of the agency’s position when making its comments on the range of alternatives. 40 CFR §1502.14(e). Presenting ONLY the “preferred alternative” with no other options in the LSDSEIS wholly deprives the affected community of any meaningful opportunity to participate and comment in the decision-making process. Because the 2010 Record of Decision has been rescinded, all the Alternatives considered in the 2009 EIS document should be under consideration and open to comment. Those Alternatives include Build Alternative 1, which the same agencies—FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington – are now proceeding with in a separate NEPA process. The Railyard Enterprise Project, without the segment of the proposed Parkway running on Pine Street between approximately Marble Avenue and Main Street, is precisely the alternative that will alleviate harmful impacts to the Maple-King community. The LSDSEIS, with no alternatives, was released to the public on July 10, 2020; the public hearing was held July 29, 2020. Supplemental scoping for the Railyard Enterprise Project which bears directly on the environmental justice aspects of the Champlain Parkway project was released August 5, 2020. The public in general, and the affected Environmental Justice community in particular, should be given information about and opportunity to comment on this alternative. CONCLUSION: The Covid-19 pandemic and related state of emergency, with its particularized impacts on the BIPOC community in Vermont, deprived affected members of the environmental justice community of opportunity to meaningfully participate in this LS DSEIS commenting process. The announcement by FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington that an environmental justice determination had already been made and an alternative already selected prior to accepting public comment inverted the NEPA process and excluded the public, including the affected members of the environmental justice community, from meaningful participation in this LS DSEIS commenting process. We therefore demand that FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington: 1. Release a revised LSDSEIS which sets out a range of alternatives presently under consideration, including the Railyard Enterprise Project/Build Alternative 1; 2. Disseminate public outreach materials indicating that a range of alternatives is under consideration, and that selection of an alternative as well as a determination regarding environmental justice impacts will be made AFTER public comments are received and considered; 3. Re-open the public comment period, after releasing these described documents, for a period of at least 60 days, while making all efforts to ensure that the documents are made available in the affected community and that comment is actively solicited (not merely accepted), taking into consideration the logistical constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic. Pine Street Coalition, By Their Legal Counsel, /s/Cindy Ellen Hill, Esq Cindy Ellen Hill, Esq. Hill Attorney PLLC, 144 Mead Lane Middlebury

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Pine Street Joins Vermont Racial Justice Alliance Asking Governor Scott to Stop Parkway Cutting King Maple in Two!

 

                                                                                                            2 February 2021


Governor Phil Scott

109 State Street

Montpelier VT 05069

 

Re: Champlain Parkway Environmental Justice

 

Dear Governor Scott,

 

            The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance contacted you two weeks ago with an urgent letter calling for environmental justice in the Champlain Parkway project in Burlington(bit.ly/ChamplainRIGHTway). The Champlain Parkway is a joint project of the City of Burlington, VTrans and the FHWA. The project stakeholders are looking to the State of Vermont for leadership in rectifying the racial injustice in the presently proposed project design, which would bifurcate the Maple-King community – Vermont’s most prominent Black neighborhood – converting the present neighborhood streets to a dangerous thoroughfare, increasing safety risks and diminishing the quality of life. 

            In conjunction with Pine Street Coalition and Burlington business anchor Fortieth Burlington, the Racial Justice Alliance has developed the Champlain RIGHTway proposal. The present obsolete and injust Champlain Parkway decreases traffic in the more affluent white neighborhood to the south at the expense of the lower-income Black Maple-King neighborhood. 

            By contrast, the Champlain RIGHTway fulfills the original project goals by reducing traffic in both residential communities, while increasing traffic safety and efficiency. The Champlain RIGHTway would also cost significantly less money, minimize environmental harm, and provide effective pedestrian and bicycle transportation routes. 

            The racial injustice of the present Champlain Parkway proposal mandates your immediate attention. The Champlain RIGHTway is the win-win-win solution.

            Time is of the essence: The FHWA has rescinded the 2010 Record of Decision for the project, and is awaiting the results of the environmental justice analysis by the City’s consultants, which is anticipated in late March 2021. Should the racial justice issues not be resolved prior to issuance of a new Record of Decision, the Pine Street Coalition and our fellow stakeholders stand prepared to move forward with the federal NEPA litigation presently pending in the U.S. District Court. The delay and public expense of such litigation is unnecessary, as the resolution to the injustice of the present design is in your hands.

            We strongly urge you to respond to the Racial Justice Alliance communication immediately, and to direct state resources to pursue the Champlain RIGHTway solution. We would be happy to provide you with any further information and to join in your meeting with the Racial Justice Alliance. 

 

Very truly yours,

 

/s/Tony Redington

 

Tony Redington, Coordinator

Pine Street Coalition

125 St. Paul Street #3-03

Burlington VT 05401

802-343-6616

tonyrvt99@gmail.com

 

For further information:

 

Cindy Hill, counsel for Pine Street Coalition

Hill Attorney PLLC

144 Mead Lane, Middlebury VT 05753

802-989-6906

hillattorneypllc@gmail.com 

 

Steve Goodkind

260 Ethan Allen Parkway

Burlington VT 05408

bludriver@aol.com

802-316-6045

 








Friday, September 4, 2020

Roundabouts Emerging to Addressing Urban Systematic/Structural Transportation Racism in America

The Roundabout Emerging as Antidote to the Traffic Signal Role in

        Urban American Systematic and Structural Transportation Racism!

It took the current Environmental Justice outreach by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to determine in a very low-minority Vermont (Census, 94% white) state the urban traffic signal may well qualify as a transportation racism practice.


In the current first federal inter-agency guided Burlington, VT application of new Environmental Justice regulations, absent when the Champlain Parkway project route got channeled through the heart the minority/low-income King Maple neighborhood, the signal as a racist treatment when replacing two-all-stop intersections became a target of neighborhood defenders.  ( For details: http://champlainparkway.com/nepa/ ) Note the City itself always opposed the route through King Maple for the project, a vestige of the 1960 auto-age thinking. 


First King Maple did qualify as minority with 21% minority residents (commenters identified 24% as a more likely number after a Census analysis).  The neighborhood may have the highest concentration of minority residents in the entire State.   The federal initial finding that the low-income population did not rise to Environmental Justice guidelines is being challenged.  It was a shock to many that the City overall has a poverty household percentage of 24.7% (Census) compared to the State 10.8% and US percent 11.8%.  The Burlington percentage rivals that of poor southern states' counties. 


There is a direct relationship between being poor in America, being a minority in America and transportation discrimination and racism.  These groups are highly dependent first and foremost on walking and public transit.  That dependency makes pedestrian safety the most important aspect, highest level of safety for pedestrians is a must in these neighborhoods.   All-way-stop control is practical in low traffic conditions and as is the newly emerged roundabout which handles all traffic volumes—both provide far lower rates pedestrian injuries and injury severity, including fatalities versus the traffic signal.  Signals increase speeds at an intersection which is a major factor in frequency and severity of pedestrian injury, the higher the speeds the higher the injuries and their severity.  Plus signals inherently increase delay for pedestrians versus the roundabout or all-way-stop control.  


 While less than 9% of households lack access to a car nationally, the figure is about 30% for Burlington's King Maple area.   It is clear that low-income/minority pedestrians walk more, use transit more, and bike more—for transportation—than the well-to-do neighborhoods.  And the figures of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 persons confirms this:  Hispanics 51% higher, African Americans 87% higher, and Native Americans 386% higher respectively than Whites. 


Just increasing traffic (or decreasing it!) in a low income neighborhood has a higher impact in pedestrian injuries when compared to a similar change in more affluent areas—a Montreal study found not only higher rates of injuries per population in low income areas intersections, but found a change  1,000 vehicle a day changing injuries 5% (up if vehicles increased, down if vehicles decrease—per thousand vehicles).


A Streetsblog USA analysis connects the dots:

In some states, racial disparities are even more stark. In 

Louisiana, for example, people of color are nine times 

more likely to be killed while walking than white people. 

In Texas, the risk is about three times greater. SGA

[Streets Blog USA] attributes these disparities 

to “disproportionately unsafe conditions for walking” 

where people of color live in these states.

                        Angie Schmidt January 10, 2017  

 ( https:// usa.streetsblog.org/2017/01/10/the-unequal-toll-of-pedestrian-deaths/ )


In any case, the roundabout is generally a better choice for safety for all modes.  But even more important the choice of a traffic signal shifts to the status of transportation towards discrimination and racism when applied to a minority/low-income neighborhood.  And vice versa--when applying roundabouts in an urban area there must be a priority given to conversion of signals to roundabouts minority/low income neighborhoods as a relief to an existing context of context of transportation racism and/or discrimination!


Burlington, a college city of 42,000 population records about 150 road injuries a year, a fatality every three years—with recent fatals three pedestrians, three car occupants and one cyclist.  About one injury is recorded each week, either a pedestrian or cyclist, and two car occupant injuries.  Over a quarter of its roughly 75 traffic traffic signals (has no roundabouts) are listed in the state’s high crash intersection list (19 of the 111). It has no interstate or freeway mileage, and is the largest City both in the State and in its one metro area.     


The United States since first in 1990 in world's highway safety since has fallen to 15th place with over 21,000 excess deaths yearly when its fatality rate per vehicle mile is compared to the top four nations (Norway is number one now).  And the U.S. recent record in pedestrian safety, a 50% increase in the last decade, is even more disturbing when racial and low-income impacts are considered. 


Separately major organizations promote roundabouts and converting signals to roundabouts--American Automobile Association (AAA), Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) among them. But none of these groups nor Federal Highway Administration Itself recognize the connection of roundabouts and addressing transportation racism and discrimination.   


In sum, installing traffic signals in urban areas now represents a form of transportation racism in minority/low income areas.  Many jurisdictions with “roundabouts first policies”—NY State Department of Transportation and Canada’s British Columbia and Alberta Ministries of Transport come to mind—avoid entirely having to deal with signals in the first place.  For those jurisdictions where traffic signals remain common practice expect challenges in terms of racism as well as discrimination when applying traffic signals in minority/low-income areas.  Burlington, Vermont brings this traffic signal as urban racism to the fore with the remedy all-way-stop control and in most cases today the modern roundabout. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Residents Blast City for Champlain Parkway Harm to Maple-King Community!

Champlain Parkway: Let's shape a roadway our City can love! 

The Pine Street Coalition—a Grassroots Volunteer Community Group 

For a Cheaper, Greener, Quicker and Much Safer “Right-Build” Roadway 

www.SafeStreetsBurlington.com 

https://www.facebook.com/SSBPineStreetNOW Stop! Reevaluate! Redesign: the Champlain Parkway 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- 25 August 2020

ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE: Residents Blast City for Champlain Parkway Harm to Maple-King Community 

BURLINGTON.
The City of Burlington's obsolete Champlain Parkway project is under fire 

for the disproportionate harm it would cause low-income and minority residents by increasing traffic and accidents in the Maple-King neighborhood. 

The City “malignantly ignores the affected low-income community, marginalizes the affected minority community and fails to consider public 

health impacts and the quality of neighborhood character,” according to comments filed Monday by the Pine Street Coalition in response to the Environmental Justice report recently released by the City, VTrans and the Federal Highway Administration as part of the project's federal environmental review. 

At the heart of the issue is the Maple-King neighborhood. The City's report stated that the community has only a few more minority residents than the Burlington average. But according to CCV statistics professor Miriam Dash, the City only used broad-brush estimated data for the full Census Tract which covers a large area, from the waterfront to Flynn Avenue. 

"Using the entire [Census] Tract 10 as representative of Maple-King dilutes the significant presence of the minority population and does not accurately represent the demographics of the neighborhood," Dash writes in the comments submitted by the Pine Street Coalition. “ Minority residents represents 24.2% of this neighborhood." 

Employing statistical hocus locus to bulldoze over concerns in low-income and Black neighborhoods is an unfortunate pattern of American history which has once again been brought to bear, according to Champlain College professor of Race and Media Lionel Beasley. "The minority community of the Maple-King neighborhood has been diluted by addition and thus negated," he writes. 

The City's highway project would reduce traffic in the more affluent area between Flynn and Home avenues by 52% to 72% by opening the bypass 

around the neighborhood. Vehicles would then return to Pine Street and Lakeside, and traffic between Maple and King streets would increase by 37%, according to the City's report. The project would also convert the present four- way-stops -- the most common type of intersection in Burlington's residential neighborhoods -- to traffic lights. 

"Adding traffic signals at two King Maple intersections increases speeds, rates of pedestrian injuries and pedestrian delay—disproportionately harming King Maple minority and low income residents” said the Coalition's Tony Redington, a retired transportation policy planner for the State of Vermont. The danger is even greater as about 30% of the residents of the Maple-King community lack access to cars and so depend on walking, bikes, and public transit. Redington pointed out that US pedestrian deaths have increased 50% in the past decade, and that African-American pedestrians die at twice the rate of white pedestrians--a public health risk that Burlington has chosen to ignore, despite the City's recent declaration of racism as a public health emergency. 

Environmental justice guidelines requiring outreach to low-income and minority populations, but the ability to access and comment on the report was much more difficult than for most environmental impact study documents. “With no prior warning, a voluminous document was issued only in digital form," said Steve Goodkind, a Coalition leader and former director of the Burlington Department of Public Works. “In the middle of a pandemic the public is given 45 days to comment, no hard copies were made available, even at City Hall or the library.” 

The Coalition lawsuit appealing the $47 million Parkway at U.S. District Court filed in June 2019 triggered the Environmental Justice review. The Pine Street Coalition has called for a cooperative approach to redesign the Champlain Parkway to a “right build” project to save money and insure a safe, quality transportation investment beneficial to the South End neighborhood and City. 

Attachments: 

(1) Pine Street Coalition August 24, 2020 filing
(2) Pine Street Coalition “New Street” approach released during the pandemic period 

Tony Redington 343-6616 

tonyrvt99@gmail.com 


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Environmental and Racial Justice--No Parkway in King Maple Neighborhood!



                   Champlain Parkway:  Let's shape a roadway our City can love!


Fight Environmental and Racial Injustice—Burlington’s Champlain Parkway Racial Discrimination Against King Maple Neighborhood: largest minorities in City, one in five residents, 21%! 80%+ low/moderate income! 31% pedestrian/bus dependent—no car access!  Black pedestrians die twice the rate of whites!

        NO PARKWAY IN KING MAPLE NEIGHBORHOOD!
No Parkway! Proposed Pine/King and Pine/Maple traffic signals will bring 
      higher speeds to neighborhood traffic!
No Parkway! The Parkway will bring even more traffic to Pine, King and Maple
      Streets—up to 37% more! 
No Parkway!  The Parkway’s new traffic lights at Pine on King and Maple 
      Streets will increase pedestrian injuries about 20%, and car crashes!
No Parkway! The Parkway design will force pedestrians to wait when crossing 
      Pine Street at King and Maple and increase noise.

Comment online here until August 24!   ChamplainParkway.com/NEPA/  Also here: July 29 hearing and other comment ways. Translation and other help: 802-496-8956  info@champlainparkway.com Pine Street Coalition 7/2020 Rev 2




Stop Environmental, Racial, and Economic Injustice!  Speak Out!

Say “No Parkway” racial and environmental injustice 
                     in King Maple Neighborhood
U.S. walk safety leader, 58th on all-time world urbanists list tells our
   Mayor Weinberger face-to-face a traffic signal in place of the
   all- way stop at Pine/Maple would be a “huge mistake!” 
   Dan Burden, AARP Pine Street Walk Audit

Champlain Parkway fits Burlington’s Declaration of Racism a Public 
   Health Emergency!  
    “Our job is not to be saviors, but to find areas where you have
    embedded racism in your institution and remove it”
               City Councilor Zoraya Hightower, Burlington’s Declaration of 
               Racism a Public Health Emergency, July 16, 2020

YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE!  COMMENT! SIGN THE PETITION!


Comment online here until August 24!
   ChamplainParkway.com/NEPA/  Also here: July 29 hearing and other comment ways. Translation and other help: 802-496-8956  info@champlainparkway.com 


New Street starting at Curtis Lumber/Kilburn Street along Parkway route over two miles to Queen City Park Road features this two-way separate bikeway and adjacent sidewalk


Pine Street Coalition’s “New Street” proposal preserves King Maple safety, cuts traffic numbers, a basis for a smaller scale compromise—a cheaper, climate responsive, highest safety Parkway for our South End avoiding another Burlington “holeintheground”!
See SafeStreetsBurlington.com

Parkway Delayed at Least to 2027 if Federal Highway/VTrans/City Refuse Collaborative New Street Resolution

Tweet 7/28/2020 Ready for the Champlain Parkway—in 2027? A letter from Pine Street Coalition counsel Atty. Cindy Ellen Hill in the Burton case before the BTV Development Review Board she advised that with a a normal legal process for the Champlain Parkway would clear the court in 2025, then construction and completion takes two years. The Coalition's New Street template certainly would speed things up. See SafeStreetsBurlington.com #btv #vtpoli

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Impossible City/VTrans/Federal Highway on New Street--All Possible but New Street!

(Im)Possible: BTV/VTrans/Feds--Cut Parkway off waterfront--Possible! Cut Parkway 3 lanes to 2 on Pine St--Possible! Cut new Parkway 4 lanes to 2--Possible! New Street cuts road 2 blocks Flynn Ave/Lakeside Ave, saves millions IMPOSSIBLE! http://SafeSteetsBurlington.com #btv #vtpoli