Union Parkway Extension/Highway 101 Interchange EIR/EA

describe the imageRincon Consultants prepared an EIR/EA to satisfy CEQA and NEPA requirements for the Union Valley Parkway Extension/Interchange Project in the City of Santa Maria. The City’s purpose for the Union Valley Parkway extension/interchange is to provide a 4-lane major arterial for the movement of people and goods through the Santa Maria-Orcutt area. The project is expected to accommodate long-term traffic/circulation needs at an acceptable Level of Service within the City of Santa Maria and the community of Orcutt in Santa Barbara County for all proposed intersections and roadways.

The project is subject to federal as well as local and state environmental review requirements because the use of federal funds is proposed and/or the project requires a federal approval action. Because of federal funding, the Federal Highway Administration is lead agency under the National Environmental Policy Act, with Caltrans acting as its delegated agent and providing oversight for the National Environmental Policy Act process.

Throughout the environmental review process, Rincon Consultants acted as a facilitator to resolve the occasionally competing goals of the City of Santa Maria, County of Santa Barbara, Caltrans, FHWA, and other reviewing agencies. The EIR/EA for the project was used to satisfy the environmental review requirements for each of these agencies. While Rincon remained under contract to the City of Santa Maria throughout the process, Rincon also represented the County of Santa Barbara at hearings to dedicate right-of-way within County jurisdiction, and assisted Caltrans and FHWA with NEPA compliance. Rincon Consultants is currently monitoring construction of the roadway extension and compliance with a Biological Opinion issued to Caltrans by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding impacts on California tiger salamander, a federally-listed endangered species, and California red-legged frog, a federally-listed threatened species.

Key issues in the environmental review included biological resources (state and federally listed species and critical habitat areas), noise, traffic and circulation, aesthetics, and air quality. Issues related to noise were especially controversial due to the proximity of existing residences to the proposed roadway extension. Rincon, City, and Caltrans staff held several hearings and workshops to discuss these issues. Due to the site topography, existing residences adjacent to one section of the roadway extension were forecasted to be exposed to high noise levels, but installation of a sound wall was found to be infeasible, as it would have been required to be more than 20 feet in height to result in an appreciable noise reduction. Rincon investigated several alternative means to reducing noise at these receptors, including new sound wall technology, new road surface technology, and roadway realignment. These investigations were documented in the EIR/EA Response to Comments, and allowed City decision-makers to make an informed decision regarding the project and associated noise issues.

The EIR/EA included a robust alternatives analysis that ultimately informed the selection of a roadway extension alternative that avoided direct land use conflicts, reduced habitat fragmentation, and reduced noise impacts on adjacent parklands.

The project was litigated by a local community group on the basis that the City improperly described the No Project Alternative. The lawsuit was resolved out of court. The settlement agreement included arrangements for construction of a sound wall that had been determined in the EIR/EA to not be feasible to implement due to high costs and minimal benefit.

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