THE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
A Document filled with Factual Errors, Misrepresentations, and Bias


The Draft Environmental Assessment includes substantial factual errors, misrepresentations, and evidence of bias.  We provide examples of how the document is written to twist information to serve the Sponsor’s purposes,  rather than provide accurate information upon which to make a fair judgment of impact.  The Draft EA should be recalled and substantially revised, before it is reissued for public comment.

CEQ intends that NEPA documents inform decisionmaking and, “will not be used to rationalize or justify decisions already made.”  (§1502.5)  Much of this the draft EA is written to justify and rationalize decisions made early in the process -  rather than to present accurate, scientific information  upon which to make a decision.

What follows are a few examples from the first section of the draft EA which provide evidence of the bias and misrepresentations that are found throughout the entire the document.


 II.A.2.a Description 

This project is a portion of the Auburn Trail located in the northwest quadrant of the Town of Victor, Ontario County with a small portion in the Towns of Perinton and Pittsford, Monroe County as shown in Figure II-1.

This is a misrepresentation of fact - it is not a small portion in Monroe County  - nearly 20% of the 2 1/2 miles is in Monroe County.  Neither Town in Monroe County entered into any agreement for construction or maintenance costs.  The Town of Victor has entered into a project  for which its taxpayers will be funding work in other municipalities for the foreseeable future.  It  brings up considerations of liability, other legal issues, and implications, which are not addressed in the draft EA.  

One connection will be completed to provide a link from the Auburn Trail Extension at Railroad Mills Road to the trail network located at Powder Mills Park in the Town of Perinton. 

This is a misleading and inaccurate statement: There is no connection to a trail network at Powder Mills Park.  The project ends in a parking lot at the entrance to the park, with no trail connections.  For a user to access any trails they must walk or ride their bicycle along a busy road (Woolston Road) with steep grade and narrow shoulder. 

Monroe County Parks prohibit cyclists on any off-road trails.  The Parks and Recreation Director and project manager for the Town of Victor is also a Director of a political action group that seeks to make Monroe County Park trails available for mountain biking.  This appears to be a conflict of interest and question of ethics for a public employee.  

There is NO Rationale for transportation purposes or connectivity to end the shared use path in a parking lot at a park, for which there is no cycling access.  The parking lot does not connect with trail systems in the park.  

 
II.B. Project Evolution 

In 2006, the Town obtained Federal funding to design and construct a shared-use path along this remaining corridor from Main Street Fishers to the Towns of Pittsford and Perinton.

This statement is misleading.  The trail does not simply go to the Towns, as mentioned in Response #1;  the proposed shared use path runs for nearly 20% of its length within the towns of Pittsford and Perinton.


II.C.1.b. Ownership and Maintenance

* The Town of Victor currently has a Permanent Easement from RG&E for the construction and maintenance of a Shared-Use Path.

Is 15 years a permanent easement? The Town of Victor has a 15 year public trail easement from RGE, with a right to renew, upon written notice, for 3 additional 5 year periods.  The easement is specifically for “walking, hiking, jogging, and cross country skiing trails, or other legal purpose as approved by Grantee in order to enhance the conservation and enjoyment of natural or scenic resources and to further the general welfare of the public.”  

Note that this easement is explicitly stated for the purposes of recreation, not transportation, and further to promote conservation and enjoyment of natural or scenic resources” - not to destroy them in the name of a transportation corridor.

The following entities own and maintain the following adjacent roads and parks:
Monroe County – Railroad Mills Road, Powder Mills Park

Another inaccurate statement - the Town of Pittsford maintains Railroad Mills Road within the Town.

II.C.1.e. 1) Right of Way

The Town of Victor has a 30- year Permanent Easement from RG&E to develop and maintain a shared-use path along the corridor. The connection along Woolston Road is located within a 49.5 foot public road right-of-way.

The Town does not have a 30 year easement  as stated above.  The easement is for “recreational purposes to enhance conservation and enjoyment of natural or scenic resources.”    It is another misrepresentation to state the easement is to develop and maintain a shared-use path.  
 

II.C.1.f. Abutting Highway Segments

In addition, the Town of Pittsford is currently updating their Comprehensive Plan. The Town has indicated that one of the significant recommendations will be in the area of Parks, trails, and sidewalks, including the extension of the Auburn Trail from Woolston Road to Jefferson Road, thereby completing the Auburn Trail connection from Victor and Farmington to Pittsford.
This project will be developed such that it will be compatible with these abutting trail sections.

Yet another example of how this documents is written to mislead the reader in order to justify their predetermined plan.  It is an untrue statement.  

Here are the facts:  The Town of Pittsford adopted its comprehensive plan in October 2009.  There is no such recommendation in the plan about extending the Auburn Trail to Jefferson Road.  This is a trail to nowhere.   The Draft EA should provide accurate information, not misinformation in order to push the project through.  

II.C.1.i. Traffic Volumes

Data has not been obtained for existing traffic volumes. Current users include bicyclists, runners, hikers, and wildlife enthusiasts.

The engineer design costs are currently $318,000 and the construction costs estimated to be $437,000 - design costs are already 73% of proposed construction costs - well above guidelines provided by the Genesee Transportation Council in the Auburn Trail Feasibility Study, where it suggested 15 - 25% (latter percentage for more complex projects).  Given these design costs well over standard, is there any reason that the consultant hasn’t obtained data for existing traffic volumes.  Isn’t that relevant information on which to base an informed decision?

We find the the draft Environmental Assessment to be full of many similar omissions and misrepresentations.  It appears to be written to justify a predetermined alternative, contrary to NEPA regulations


II.C.1.k. Safety Considerations

Accident History – There is no historical information available for accidents along the trail. The generally flat grade and straight alignment of the corridor appears to provide a safe environment for the current walking trail. Note, however that on several occasions during site visits, individuals stumbled and tripped in areas of significant rutting and on large tree roots protruding through the surface of the ground. In addition, members of the public indicated they had fallen on tree roots and other obstacles on the trail surface.

This appears to be pure fabrication.   Where is data to support the “on several occasions during site visits” that people stumbled and tripped?

Coalition groups and trails users - with several well attended field trips each year, report no accidents or issues with the trail.  It is safe as it exists.  Such statements in the EA, unsubstantiated, serve only the purpose to justify the controversial wide stonedust road that the the Sponsor is putting forth.  It appears dishonest.

Shouldn’t an alternative be chosen based on honest scientific data - not unsubstantiated statements that only serve the purpose of the Sponsor?

We point out how this section changed,  from the way it was presented in the  same section (II.C.1.k) of the original Draft Design Report (October 2008): “No accident records are maintained for incidents along the trail. The generally flat grade and straight alignment of the corridor appears to provide a safe environment for the current walking trail.”  

The addition to the draft EA is highly suspect. The only area in the entire trail where tree roots and rutting are an issue is in the immediate area around the damaged culvert.  The repair of that area will address those issues - it is misleading to imply that this is a trail condition - it is a localized condition around the culvert, which will be fixed with the culvert replacement.


Currently, emergency vehicles access is limited by the trail width, surface, and the collapsed culvert.

Victor Hiking Trail mows the trail to 10 feet wide - the same width as the proposed trail. RG& E currently accesses the trail with its own maintenance vehicles. To characterize the existing trail as currently inaccessible by emergency vehicles is untrue.

II.C.1.o Structures

There are no bridges within the project limits. There are multiple culverts within the project limits that convey drainage under the trail. The culverts are comprised of concrete, stone masonry, corrugated metal, and cast iron and range in size and length. There are three large stone masonry and concrete earth-filled arch structures that convey the raised railbed over the Irondequoit Creek. Two are in generally good condition while a majority of the third culvert has collapsed and is in need of replacement. The collapsed culvert is located approximately 1,100 feet north of Fisher Road. Refer to the “Structure Condition and Assessment Report” in Appendix M for additional information regarding the existing culvert conditions.

The design engineers have not identified where these multiple culverts are “that convey drainage under the trail.”  Three of these culverts are in the area between Railroad Mills Road and the collapsed culvert. The Coalition has found all to be in poor repair and/or clogged. How effectively do they convey water from the wetlands on the west side of the berm to the east side that drains into Irondequoit Creek, especially in time of significant flooding?  

These structures should be mapped, identified, and assessed for their ability to convey water during a major flooding event.  The structural integrity of the rail berm could be in question.

II.C.1.p. Hydraulics

No hydrologic and hydraulic analysis was performed to evaluate the capacity of the existing culverts to convey a design storm. Based upon preliminary site observations, each of the culverts appears to provide adequate capacity.

Why was no analysis performed?  Again - with engineering costs approaching 75% of construction, one must ask where the money has gone, and why was due diligence not performed?  This is a key design issue that could have implications on the long term viability of the berm.  Such an important issue deserves more than a cursory  assessment, or “a brief evaluation based on “appearance.”  Should not the design engineer determine this before releasing a draft EA?

II.C.1.q.  Drainage Systems

(1) The existing storm drainage along the project corridor is an open system comprised of trail and roadside ditches and swales with a few cross culverts that flow to the stream and road crossings identified earlier. The system is generally adequate exhibiting ponding in several localized areas. There are no closed drainage systems along the trail. There are some open and closed drainage systems at public road crossings.

As stated above there is an issue with poor condition culverts.  At least one of the cross culverts is nearly completely clogged, and so is, in fact, a closed system.

The report does not identify the three culverts mentioned above, nor is there any indication that it has investigated what other cross-culverts occur along the entire berm. 

(2) Condition/Deterioration – The system is in good condition, with pipes partially filled with sediment.

The cross culverts which convey drainage from the west side of the berm to the east are over 100 years old  (date on one is 1903) - they are in poor condition and need proper assessment and attention.

(3) Deficiencies/Needs – Additional culverts will need to be installed at the road crossings and ditches cleaned, as necessary, to maintain unobstructed positive flow.

What ‘ditches” are being referred to?  One of these areas is ecologically a vernal pool.  It provides breeding habitat for frogs, salamanders, dragonflies, damselflies, and other organisms.  An assessment of the ecology of these pools must be done before consideration of “cleaning” them out.

II.C.1.v.  Provisions for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

The trail is currently used by hikers, runners and bicyclists primarily for recreational purposes to access intersecting roadways and destination points along the corridor. The trail surface and width do not meet current ADA requirements. There are also areas where the grade exceeds the maximum allowable ADA requirement.

The Coalition groups offer regular, well-attended field trips to the trail, especially the special environmental area between Railroad Mills Road and the collapsed culvert.  They are visiting NOT to access destination points, rather to enjoy the unusual opportunities for nature recreation that the trail and its unusual ecology, provide.  

The special environmental area is recognized in publications, though this it is not recognized in the draft EA.  It is listed as one of the “Top 20 Trails” in the Rochester area,  in “Best Easy Day Hikes, Rochester” (Falcon Press, 2009) specifically due to the trail’s easy access and environmental attributes.  

The Consultant has consistently misrepresented the use, and reasons for the visits, by many members of the public.    

ADA does NOT have specific requirements for trails.  This issue has been continually misrepresented by the Town, and is again misrepresented in the draft EA. The Coalition has repeatedly asked the Sponsor to provide the specific ADA requirements.  None have been provided.   

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These are some examples from part of the first chapter of the draft EA.  The entire document contains numerous additional examples of misrepresentations, errors of fact, and and speculative statements presented as fact.  These point to a severely biased document.  

It is not worthy of a NEPA document.    It needs to be recalled, prepared properly, and reissued as a draft for Public Comment.  Otherwise, an EIS should be prepared.