The City is proactively complying with all federal requirements for the Austin Avenue Bridges project in order to be eligible for any federal funding. The environmental process and the oversight by TxDOT on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is very technical and deliberate. The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) has allocated $1.3 million of Federal funds towards either rehabilitation or replacement as a part of their Surface Transportation Program Metropolitan Mobility (STPMM). Opportunities for public participation and highlights of the different processes the Austin Ave. Bridges Project is following along with resources for additional information are below:
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
NEPA compliance is required for any project with a federal funding component. This project will follow the NEPA process in order to remain eligible for additional funding from state and federal sources. This process includes an evaluation of a range of alternatives to determine the preferred solution. TxDOT is the reviewing agency to confirm requirements are met and the City and project team are working closely with TxDOT throughout this process. Additional agency coordination may be required, depending on other potential environmental impacts (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and others). Below are additional requirements that are being followed as part of the environmental process.
National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)
The bridges are “eligible for listing” in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) because they were constructed with a cantilevered-suspended span configuration. Any potential impacts to these resources require compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA. A historic resources survey is planned to identify historic properties that are listed or eligible for listing in the NRHP. Under the Section 106 requirement, interested parties can apply to become a consulting party. The City is beginning an informal process with TxDOT and consulting parties now, and the formal process, led by TxDOT, will continue in Fall 2016 or early 2017. Section 106 also has a public involvement requirement, and future public meetings will have a specific station with additional information and to collect comments focused on historic resources.
Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Act
If an adverse effect to the historic bridges would occur under Section 106 through rehabilitation or replacement (please note – there is NO identified solution at this point), then Section 4(f) compliance is required. This evaluation requires an analysis to determine whether there are prudent and feasible alternatives to having an adverse effect to, or “use” of, NRHP-eligible properties. Because the bridges themselves are historic, the project team has been working to investigate various alternatives to ensure all requirements are met. This Section 4(f) alternatives analysis is focused on historic considerations, but, in general, the alternatives analysis process will also form a key part of the Section 106 and NEPA documentation requirements.
If you are interested in becoming a consulting party, you must officially submit a request through TxDOT. This is available online at: http://www.txdot.gov/contact-us/form.html?id=crm-email. The City and the project team, will share information at public meetings and online, so those that are not consulting parties will have the same access to all information. All those interested are welcome and encouraged to participate in the public involvement process.
National Environmental Policy Act:
Historical Structures and Section 106:
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation:
Section 4(f) Tutorial: